Techwatch: Feb. 2, 1998

NASA'S HIGH FLYER EARNS ITS WEIRD WINGS

If flying makes you queasy, you'll be relieved to know that Pathfinder--NASA's ultralight, solar-powered aircraft, that is, not the Mars lander of the same name--isn't taking passengers just yet. But according to a NASA briefing last week, the remote-controlled plane's high-altitude (71,500 ft.), low-speed (15 m.p.h.) flights are perfect for the kind of environmental research now being done by orbiting satellites. Pathfinder's flexible 99-ft. wings, glistening with $1 million worth of solar panels, have been tested only in sunny Hawaii. So the plane carries a backup battery system, just in case.

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