The X-15 Rocket Plane, Flying the First Wings into Space

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Date(s) - Wed, Apr 12 2017
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm PDT

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Carnegie Cultural Center
123 E. D Street

I will be giving a presentation about the hypersonic X-15 research aircraft, which was the first to carry a man into space and back to a controlled landing using wings instead of parachutes.

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. ‘The X-15 Rocket Plane’ 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.

My presentation focuses on this remarkable research aircraft that held the world’s altitude record of higher than 67 miles for 41 years, and still has no equal to match or better its speed of more than 4,500 mph. It is told with drama, humor, and excitement.
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. It was flying at the same time as Yuri Gagarin, and through the beginnings of the Apollo program. The X-15 was flown by 12 pilots, eight of whom became astronauts.
In my research, I interviewed nearly 70 people, including 9 of the 12 pilots, such as Neil Armstrong, Scott Crossfield, and Joe Walker, with family representatives for the remaining pilots. Others I spoke with include managers, flight planners, and the guys in the trenches who made the X-15 ready to fly its next research mission at high altitude and high Mach. This is a presentation about the early days of human spaceflight that you will remember for years to come.