Solar-Powered Plane Takes Off on Cross-Country Journey, Highlights Clean Energy

The first ever solar-powered plane to attempt to fly across the country took off from an airport in the San Francisco Bay area on Friday.

The aircraft, named Solar Impulse, took-off from Moffett Field as it headed to Phoenix, which will be the first stop on this five-leg journey.

The plane will not break any speed records, given that it will slowly climb to a cruising altitude of 28,000 feet and reach a top speed of around 60 miles per hour.

The project was created and developed by Swiss pilots and Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, who will take turns piloting the single-seat aircraft. The plane is scheduled to make its final landing at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in about eight weeks depending on the weather conditions throughout the trip.

The project started in 2003 and was outlined by a 10-year budget of just over $100 million. The projected has taped the minds of engineers from Swiss escalator maker Schindler as well as used research aid from Belgian chemicals group Solvay, who are hoping to test new materials on the plane.

At the heart of the project is the desire to raise awareness of the importance of developing clean-energy technologies as well as encouraging support for the transition to such energy resources.

"I hope people understand the potential of this technology and use it on the ground," Borschberg, who flew in the Swiss Air Force for more than two decades, told reporters before the pair took off on Friday. "If we don't try to fly today using renewable energy, we never will."

The Solar Impulse is a test model for an aircraft that is currently in the planning phase that will be designed to travel around the globe. That plane is not scheduled to be completed until 2015.