Out in the California desert, CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone witnessed the maiden voyage Thursday of a most unusual airplane. The Centurion sauntered down the runway at just 24 miles an hour with its 14 engines producing little more power than a household appliance.
According to NASA Engineer John Del Frate, "Think about a blow dryer you use to blow dry your hair. That's about one kilowatt. So essentially to take off, we need the power of six to eight blow dryers."
Not exactly The Right Stuff.
It's more like The Little Engine that Could.
One day, NASA hopes that the Centurion, powered by the sun, will fly high enough to takeover jobs now done by satellites.
There's no pilot; the plane operates by remote control. In the hangar it seems delicate; it's little more than wire wrapped in plastic. Make no mistake, the Centurion stretches 206 feet across and comes alive when it rises high into the atmosphere.
Because it runs on solar power, Centurion could fly for weeks or months at a time watching weather for example more effectively than a satellite.
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