November 9 – X-15 plane

Before John F. Kennedy and his quest to put man on the moon, scientists were interested in the potential of space travel and outer space.  While many of the planes that were built in order to furnish the research needed to put a man on the moon were forgotten, they still play a key role in U.S. history.  One of these planes is the X-15.  At a time when scientists were still struggling to get a plane to behave at Mach 2, the X-15 was suppose to reach Mach 7.  While it came very close to reaching that speed, it never did actually achieve that speed.  It did, however, provide much invaluable data to scientists that would help with creating the future shuttles.  In 1955, the United States began to develop three research planes that would be called the X-15s.  They were designed with one specific purpose in mind.  The planes were about fifty-five feet long and had a twenty-two foot wingspan.  Essentially, these planes were flying rocket engines.  Their sole purpose was to find how pilots and planes would react to going faster than man had ever flown before.  Powered by a massive rocket engine, the X-15 would be launched by a B-52 bomber at the height of 45,000 feet and a speed of about 500 mph.  At the point of release, the X-15 pilot would switch on the engine, which propelled the plane for less than two minutes.  On November 9, 1961, the X-15 reached Mach 6.04.  While this was not the fastest the plane would fly, it did mark an increase in speed from Mach 3.2 in just one year.  Considering speeds had been kept near Mach 2 for so long, the jump in speed was incredible.  Although the X-15 never got a chance to fly into space due to Sputnik going into space in 1957, it did provide valuable information for the future of space flight in the U.S.  The X-15 provided information about hypersonic air flow, control and stability at hypersonic speeds, piloting techniques for reentry, and human factors among many other things.  While the history and use of the X-15 is largely forgotten, it paved the way for putting a man on the moon.

Sources:

http://acepilots.com/planes/x15.html

http://history.nasa.gov/hyperrev-x15/ch-6.html

http://history.nasa.gov/x15/cover.html

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