“The X-15 Rocket Plane, Flying the First Wings into Space”
With the Soviet Union’s launch of the first Sputnik satellite in 1957, the Cold War soared to new heights as Americans feared losing the race into space. This presentation tells the enthralling yet little-known story of the hypersonic X-15, the winged rocket ship that met this challenge and opened the way into human- controlled spaceflight.
This remarkable research aircraft held the world’s altitude record for 41 years, and still has no equal to match or better its speed of more than 4,500 mph. Beyond the X-15 are the stories of the 12 men who guided it into space, and all the people who kept the rocket plane flying for nearly a decade. This is the story that has never been told of the vehicle that was the true precursor to the Space Shuttle by being the first piloted and winged vehicle to exit Earth’s atmosphere, and make a controlled reentry to a landing on hard-packed dry desert lakebeds.
In her research, Ms. Evans interviewed nearly 70 people, including 9 of the 12 pilots, including Neil Armstrong, Scott Crossfield, and Robert White, with family representatives for the remaining pilots. Others she spoke with include managers, flight planners, and the technicians and engineers who made the X-15 ready to fly its next research mission at high altitude and high Mach.