Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tests loom for record solar plane

Tests loom for record solar plane

This seems to be the week for record-breaking, it would seem. Rocket-powered cars, fastest lawnmowers and now the latest on Solar Impulse - the solar-powered aeroplane on course to circumnavigate the world.

As you might have guessed, these tales of endeavour and derring-do appeal to me greatly. When I think back to the early years of the 20th century, a time which has always held a great fascination for me, I wonder what it must have been like to follow those engineering pioneers and adventurers such as the Wright brothers, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, Sir Malcolm Campbell, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Johnson to name but a few. Sometimes it's easy to feel, in this time of the Internet, digital media, mobile telephones, advanced machinery and so forth, that there is little else left to be discovered (or worth discovering) or any point in pushing the boundaries of knowledge and endurance. However I like to think that we as human beings are programmed to test our limits and where possible surpass them; that perhaps it is in our very nature to look for the next discovery, the next target. I'm grateful that there doesn't seem to be any sign yet of our reaching the limits of our abilities to try and exceed the set standard and that there are people out there willing to keep pushing forward, whether for the benefit of mankind or more simply because "it can be done". I will keep following their progress and use it to try and keep imagining what it must have been like for those people back in the '20s and '30s, hearing of how, for example, one man had flown across the Atlantic, or travelled the fastest on land.

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