A jet took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on July 9 in an attempt to break world records for flying around the Earth over the North and South poles.
Retired astronaut Terry Virts and a team of pilots from British company Action Aviation will fly an executive jet for about 48 hours with the briefest of stops to refuel in Kazakhstan, Mauritius and Chile. A live stream video that was expected to show jet’s interior was working sporadically in the first hour of the flight.
“Just crossed into Canada – 2 minutes ahead of schedule,” Virts tweeted about 11:38 a.m., more than two hours into the flight.
The mission’s progress can be tracked via radar signal at FlightRadar24.com.
The Gulfstream G650ER is owned by a subsidiary of Qatar Airways. The pilots will attempt to shave hours off a record that’s gone unchallenged since 2008, according to a news release from Action.
Two world records are at stake — one for average speed set in 2008, and one for total minimum time set in 1977 by a Pan American 747.
The mission, titled One More Orbit, paid tribute to the achievements of the Apollo moon missions with a takeoff time of 9:32 a.m. — the same time as the original Apollo 11 liftoff on July 16, 1969.
Virts is a former commander of the International Space Station and a space shuttle pilot for the 2015 flight of Endeavour, STS-130.
The flight is also designed to be “carbon neutral” by using carbon sequestration offsets.
The flight is estimated at 25,000-miles. Qatar Executive and Gulfstream claim the jet can fly at a faster speed for longer distances than any other jet, with a range of 8,630 miles.