In the heat of the night
There’s always a slight feeling of melancholy when something we’ve been preparing for so long slowly comes to an end. I will never forget the growing excitement in the corridors at Solar Impulse when we were deciding how the Crossing Frontiers mission would unfold, not to mention the impatience when the weather forecast repeatedly played funny jokes on us.
Tonight, André Borschberg successfully brought the solar aircraft back to Solar Impulse’s first encounter with the African continent, landing in Rabat-Salé airport Friday 29 June at 21:22 (UTC). It was a smooth flight, but it was certainly more intriguing for us in the Mission Control Centre than for André. As I’m seated not too far from Solar Impulse’s expert meteorologists, I have the privilege of getting glimpses of the most up-to-date weather forecasts.
What struck me during this flight is that the prototype was literally being chased by striking thunderstorm clouds, no pun intended. One of the last videos that I had a chance to watch was simply amazing: a sequence of innocently white, transparent clouds hastily transforming into large cottony ogres, blowing out of proportion in the direction of Rabat. Meanwhile, the elegant solar aircraft unknowingly continued, undisturbed, his journey to its final destination.
Luckily a little surprise came up in the midst of the maneuvering for the appropriate landing window. I say luckily because the thermals fell earlier than planned providing a window for André to begin his final descent into Rabat. The news was also almost exaggeratedly applauded here in Payerne, dissipating any leftover feeling of melancholy in a fraction of a second. Landing earlier was promptly translated into leaving the overheated tin-can like room. Had André flown directly from Ouarzazate to Payerne today, he probably wouldn’t have even noticed he’d left the Moroccan desert aside from the over 14 hour flight.
For once the weather has played a reversed joke and because of it, we can now all take a breath of fresh air, stretch our legs for some, and slowly start preparing psychologically for the symbolic crossing into Europe.
There’s always a slight feeling of melancholy when something we’ve been preparing for so long slowly comes to an end. I ...