Paul MacCready 1925-2007


While the news is full of spaceports and battery powered cars, pause to remember Paul MacCready, who created far more elegant and appropriate solutions for our times- human and then solar powered flight. At 15 he was winning model airplane competitions; as he got older the planes got bigger. In 1977 the Gossamer Condor, seventy pounds of mylar and piano wire, became the first human powered airplane. In 1979 a cyclist powered the Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel. In 1981 the Solar Challenger, "flying on sunbeams," flew 163 miles on 400 watts from photovoltaics. His solar powered car, the Sunraycer, crossed 2,000 miles of Australian desert.

At the time of his death MacCready was working on giant kites that would float at 1,000 feet and extract "huge energy" from high altitude winds. This is the kind of creativity and genius we need to survive the challenges ahead. ::Economist