National Geographic : 2016 Jan
PHOTO: LUCA LOCATELLI Why I Explore, and Why You Should Too nationalgeographic.com/3Q 3 Questions Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard is a third- generation explorer. His father was an undersea scientist, his grandfather a balloonist. Now 57, Piccard circled the world in a propane-powered balloon in 1999, then turned to a cleaner goal: making the trip on solar power alone. His aircraft, Solar Impulse 2, will continue its flight, from Hawaii to the U.S . mainland, this spring. You’ve done work all over the planet. Where is ex- ploration needed most? Quality of life. If you look at the ocean, Earth, and space, there’s been a lot of exploration in those places. But now we have to conquer the quality of life on this planet. Humankind is at a crossroads: If we want to survive, we need clean technology and renewable energies. But we also need human rights. We need medical research. We need to fight against poverty. We need better governance on this planet. I think this is where explorers really need to focus. That’s really the challenge of the 21st century. We see only your work that goes right. How much of it goes wrong? Even when you have plans, things happen as they hap- pen. If everything happens according to plan, it’s a business plan, not an adven- ture. Exploration is not only when you have a big success and can wave the flag of triumph. Exploration has a lot to do with preparation, frustration, disappoint- ment, and unpredictability. When you accept all of that, then maybe you can get to a success. What’s your advice to young explorers? Explorers are famous peo- ple. When you’re famous, it’s your responsibility to help other people live better and protect their environment and actively contribute to the wealth of the world. For example, next I may work on a remote-controlled plane that would replace satellites. It would be a cheap solution—a way for developing countries to have telecommunications, mobile phones, and Wi-Fi. When you’re an explorer, don’t do it only for yourself. Do it to be useful to humankind.