Heroes

Meet the plane that's making its way around the world without using a single drop of fuel.

Modern-day Wright brothers are reinventing what it means to fly.

Meet the plane that's making its way around the world without using a single drop of fuel.

Imagine being able to fly from New York to London without using a single drop of fuel.

It may sound far-fetched, but that's exactly what a group of engineers and pilots are hoping to make a reality — and soon. How? Solar energy.

Meet the Solar Impulse 2, the world's most advanced solar-powered plane.

The single-passenger plane collects solar energy via panels atop its wings, storing that in four batteries located behind the pilot. This allows the plane to fly at night and, in theory, means that as long as the equipment allowed, it could go on flying, well, forever.



A lot has changed in how we've flown over the past several decades, but rarely has there been a shift like this.

Commercial passenger aircraft — which, it needs to be noted, the Solar Impulse 2 is not — have varied in size, shape, and design over time.

From the wide-bodied Boeing 747 to the narrow Boeing 737, dozens of models have rolled out in the post-World War II era, each coming with their own unique features.


The first 747 is unveiled to the public on Sept. 30, 1968. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

The Solar Impulse 2's 236-foot wingspan is wider than that of the 747, which has a 229-foot wingspan.

While using solar power for large commercial jets would be wonderful, right now creators have more attainable goals.

In most situations, circling the globe would be a monumental accomplishment, but the makers of the Solar Impulse are on pace to making that happen.

In March 2015, pilots took off from Abu Dhabi, making stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, and China.

The team's next goal is to fly from Nanjing, China, to Hawaii. This trip, roughly 4,000 miles, will set new records for the longest distance flown by an electric plane and longest flight duration for a single pilot (over 100 hours).


From there, the team hopes to make a few stops in the U.S. before flying from New York to southern Europe/northern Africa. Then it's back to Abu Dhabi, completing the circuit.

It'll be a long time before us normal folks are able to hop a solar-powered flight, but some groups are looking into the possibility of adding hybrid engines on commercial jets.

In April 2014, Airbus announced plans for a hybrid regional plane with a capacity between 70 and 90 people.

They estimate that this type of aircraft will be ready for commercial use sometime in the next 15 to 20 years. This fuel-saving measure wouldn't have quite as much an impact as going completely solar-powered, but it's certainly a step toward a cleaner, more environmentally friendly mode of travel.

If there's one thing the Solar Impulse team is teaching us, it's that what once seemed impossible is anything but.

Like modern-day Wright brothers, the team over there is reinventing what it means to fly, and maybe within our lifetimes, we'll see some of their concepts being incorporated into mass transit.

Bloomberg put together a short video of the Solar Impulse 2 in action as it makes its way around the world.

Check it out:

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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