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Solar Impulse 2 forced to land during record-breaking attempt

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Solar-powered plane heads back to Japan due to bad weather

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 has been forced to land in Japan due to poor weather conditions, 36 hours into what was supposed to be a record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean. The solar-powered plane took off early Sunday from Nanjing, China to begin a 120-hour trip to Hawaii that would have smashed the world record for longest duration of a solo aircraft flight. (It currently stands at 67 hours and 1 minute.) The aircraft and its lone pilot, André Borschberg, completed one overnight leg before Solar Impulse's meteorologists decided to make an unexpected stopover in Nagoya, Japan this morning as conditions worsened.

This was the seventh of 12 flights that Solar Impulse 2 has scheduled as part of an around-the-world campaign to raise awareness around renewable energy. The China-to-Hawaii flight was expected to be the most challenging leg of the tour, and had been delayed several times prior to Sunday's takeoff as the team waited for ideal weather conditions. Because the aircraft is powered entirely by solar energy, it needs to fly under sunny skies to capture enough energy for its overnight journeys. As BBC News reports, Borschberg and his team will now wait for the weather to improve before continuing the flight.

"Everything we could do has been done," tweeted Bertrand Piccard, who has shared piloting duties with Borschberg throughout Solar Impulse's world tour. "The weather we cannot control. This is what exploration is about."