NASA HISTORY: Neil Armstrong Sets Record Distance, Duration X-15 Flight 54 Years Ago

By  //  April 21, 2016

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reached altitude of 207,000 feet

NEIL-ARMSTRONG-FLIGHT-FULL

Although famous for being the first person to set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong thought of himself primarily as a research pilot. Being a research pilot was a very demanding and frequently dangerous career, and in 1962, Armstrong almost had a bad day as a NASA research pilot. (NASA History image)

Although famous for being the first person to set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong thought of himself primarily as a research pilot.

Being a research pilot was a very demanding and frequently dangerous career, and in 1962, Armstrong almost had a bad day as a NASA research pilot.

His mission that day was to fly the X-15 rocket plane far above the atmosphere to test the reaction control system and run a number of other tests.

The flight began at 30,000 feet from the bottom of the B-52 mother-ship.

After dropping from the B-52 he activated the rocket engine and shot upward past Mach 5 under rocket power into the thin upper atmosphere to an altitude of 207,000 feet. This was the highest altitude Armstrong would achieve until he flew in space on Gemini VIII.

Once there, Armstrong discovered that the tests did not work out as planned in the simulator on the ground.

He wound up on a ballistic trajectory heading toward Los Angeles, and was unable to turn back to the dry lake landing site at Edwards Air Force Base as planned. He had to wait until he was low enough in the atmosphere for wings to be effective once again.

When they were he turned back toward Edwards, but was already too low to make the planned landing spot on Rogers Dry Lake. Without conventional engines, the X-15 was a not very effective glider when it landed after tests.

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So, Armstrong had to pick an alternative landing spot. He expertly judged his glide path and made a safe landing on Rosamond Dry Lake, just to the southwest of the planned spot.

On this flight, Armstrong set the record for longest distance and duration flight in the X-15. A few months later, in September 1962, he was selected to join the astronaut corps as part of the second class (known as the “New Nine.”)

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ABOVE VIDEO: Besides being the first man to walk on the moon Neil Armstrong was also the only pilot to ever take the X-15 into Space And Back Again !!!


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