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SolarImpulse: A Message

With each of their great “firsts”, the adventurers of the last century constantly pushed back the limits of the impossible. Today, the drive to make new discoveries must go on, with the aim of improving the quality of life on our planet. By writing the next pages in aviation history with solar energy, and voyaging around the world without fuel or pollution, Solar Impulse’s ambition is for the world of exploration and innovation to contribute to the cause of renewable energies, to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development; and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure.

By going beyond the question of energy, Solar Impulse would also like to encourage each and every one of us to become pioneers in our own lives, in our ways of thinking and behaving.
21st Century Challenges

There were many memorable high points during the last century. The whole world reverberated to the rhythm of the conquest of the poles and of Everest, of the exploration of the depths of the ocean, the stratosphere and space, the first steps on the moon.

From the earliest ground-hops to the first flight around the world in a balloon, these grand premieres all have one thing in common: they have profoundly changed our perception of the impossible.

In the 21st century, adventure must continue, but how do we perpetuate the pioneering spirit and cultivate the audacity of our predecessors?

Major challenges await humanity. They will open new horizons for science, but their objectives will be less to conquer unknown territories than to preserve the planet from today’s threats, in order to sustain and improve our quality of life.

The next adventures will therefore be humanitarian and medical – combating extreme poverty and containing new epidemics, political – improving our governance of the planet, spiritual – rediscovering profound and soundly-based values, and of course technological – providing durable answers to the threats menacing our environment.

“Adventure is not necessarily a spectacular deed, but rather an “extra-ordinary” one, meaning something that pushes us outside our normal way of thinking and behaving. Something that forces us to leave the protective shell of our certainties, within which we act and react automatically. Adventure is a state of mind in the face of the unknown, a way of conceiving our existence as an experimental field, in which we have to develop our inner resources, climb our personal path of evolution and assimilate the ethical and moral values that we need to accompany our voyage.” Bertrand Piccard
Jules Verne Dream

One could easily imagine oneself in a Jules Verne novel: a team wanting to promote renewable energies sets off round the world in a solar airplane, aiming to fly without fuel or pollution… The revenge of Icarus, in a way.

A new Utopia? A beautiful scene from science fiction? No, a cutting-edge technological challenge! A sufficiently eccentric project to appeal to one’s emotions and get one’s adrenalin pumping: to harness a clean and renewable form of energy, and use it to fly night and day without limit.

To have got over the hurdle of a first night in the air signifies being able to envisage another, and then another, and so get closer to an even more symbolic myth: perpetual flight.

As admirers of the visionary spirit of the famous novelist, Solar Impulse also wants to place dreams and science at the heart of human adventure, whilst bringing together those who aspire to the same values.

«A Jules Verne dream of today means the urge to explore the unknown and the force to do good, which must continue to inspire human beings. Take your time, be patient and determined, wrote my great grandfather Jules Verne, for everything great that has ever been achieved in the world, is the result of exaggerated ambitions. And it is this spirit that Bertrand Piccard symbolizes best in this project, which is ambitious but of universal benefit to mankind.» Jean Verne
Family tradition

Never before has one family had such an impact on the world of exploration as Auguste, Jacques and Bertrand Piccard. In this dynasty, one has been inventing and exploring for three generations: the pressurized capsule and the first flight in the stratosphere, the bathyscaphe and the absolute deep-sea diving record, the first non-stop, round-the-world, balloon flight. As author Jacques Lacarrière notes so judiciously: “The three of them combine man’s maddest dreams, to become fish or bird”.

Solar Impulse stands squarely in the middle of this ongoing traditional path of exploration, adventure and scientific development.

Auguste Piccard

Auguste opened the way to modern aviation and to the conquest of space, by inventing the principle of the pressurized cabin and the stratospheric balloon. With his first ascension into the stratosphere (to an altitude of 15,780 and then 16,201 meters in 1931 and 1932), to study cosmic rays, he became the first man to see the Earth’s curvature with his own eyes. Applying the principle of his stratospheric balloon to the exploration of the ocean depths, he invented and built a revolutionary submarine, which he called the Bathyscaphe. While diving with his son Jacques to 3,150 meters in 1953, he became the man of extremes, the one who had both flown the highest and dived the deepest.

Jacques Piccard

Jacques made several record-breaking dives with Auguste, before becoming himself the man to have dived the deepest in the world, reaching a depth of 10,916 meters in the Mariannes Abyss, the deepest point in the oceans. While discovering life at that depth, and also verifying the existence of marine currents between the depths and the surface, this historic dive above all served to do away with the idea, which was common at the time, that one could get rid of highly toxic waste by dumping it in marine abysses. Following up his father’s work, Jacques built the first tourist submarine. Then he explored the Gulf Stream with another mesoscaphe of his invention, in a drifting dive which lasted a month and also served, in collaboration with NASA, to prepare the Space Lab missions.

Bertrand Piccard

Bertrand was to also become an explorer, but first of all of the interior world. He became a psychiatrist, specializing in hypnotherapy. A pioneer of free flight and ULM in Europe, he showed a passionate interest in the study of human behavior in extreme situations, before getting involved with ballooning. He won the first transatlantic balloon race, before launching the Breitling Orbiter project. As captain of the three attempts, Bertrand succeeded with the Briton, Brian Jones, in making the first non-stop, round-the-world balloon flight and, at the same time, setting the record for the longest flight in the history of aviation, both in time and in distance. From now on, the Breitling Orbiter 3 capsule is on display in the main hall at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, along with the Apollo 11 capsule and the airplanes flown by the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Chuck Yeager.

The full circle is completed with his entry in the Larousse after his grandfather and father. Following what one has described as the last great adventure of the 20th century, Bertrand became one of the most sought after conference speakers, developing his humanist vision of the adventure of life. However, he is also extremely concerned about people most in need, which explains why he has founded and presides over the humanitarian Winds of Hope Foundation and has been nominated as a goodwill ambassadors of the United Nations.

Bertrand’s web site:


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