Tech by VICE

A Family Lineage of Exploration Inspired Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse

A family legacy of exploration and innovation inspired Bertrand Piccard to change the world

by Servo Jeffersen
Aug 4 2016, 3:50pm

Using only the power of the sun to fuel it's round-the-world flight, Solar Impulse 2 pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg made history, landing in Abu Dhabi in the Arab Emerites where the journey began roughly 1 year ago. This incredible achievement is the latest in a long line of the Piccard family's astounding history of adventure and innovation.

Achieving the unthinkable and breaking records is simply what the Piccard family does. For three generations, Auguste, Jacques, and Bertrand Piccard have impacted the world of exploration in countless ways, making it seemingly routine to do what was once considered impossible.

Watch the Bertrand Piccard prepare for the completion of his historic Solar Impulse 2 flight.

The Piccard family's of scientific innovation and exploration first garnered the world's attention with the exploits of Auguste, Bertrand's grandfather, who became the first person to reach the earth's stratosphere. To reach such great heights, Auguste first created the pressurized cabin, an invention that, along with a stratospheric hot air balloon, afforded him the opportunity to be the first person to see the curvature of the earth, plotting a course for modern aviation.

Auguste wasn't merely a thrill-seeker. His primary objectives were always to push science further and to garner a greater understanding of the world around us. His desire to reach the edge of our planet's atmosphere was based on his need to test Einstein's theory of relativity, and to measure the activity of cosmic rays. He developed the most accurate scales and seismographs of his time, and his research into solar energy and environmental concerns came decades before the issues reached the hearts and minds of the general public.

At the twilight of his career, Auguste adapted his designs for his pressurized cabins and turned his attention from the heights of the sky to the depths of the sea. Jacques, Auguste's son, picked up where his father left off–venturing deeper into the ocean than anyone before him. His submarine, the Bathyscaphe Trieste, settled on the ocean floor of the Marianas Trench, nearly 11,000 meters under the water's surface, setting a sea diving record of 35,813 feet.

Auguste Piccard and the stratospheric balloon that would serve as inspiration for his grandson Betrand's record-breaking achievements.

Like Auguste's influence on Jaques, Bertrand was inspired by the accomplishments of his father, first becoming one of the early pioneers of hang gliding, then pivoting his fascination with flight to ballooning. In March of 1999, Bertrand, along with his cohort Brian Jones, began a journey which would result in the first successful non-stop balloon flight around the globe.

The circumvention of the earth without use of fuels or forward motion would encourage Piccard to continue his exploration of not only flight, but of sustainable, green energy in his groundbreaking Solar Impulse project which achieved it's lofty goals in its second iteration.

Three generations of the Piccard family have left the world not only with a series of astounding, record-breaking achievements and scientific innovations, but with a hope for a better future–man's symbiosis with the world around us.