Friday, September 28, 2007

In honor of the guys with buzzcuts and slide rules...

...it's Cool Fifties Technology Day at VFTP.

In 1959, the USAF and the Big Science guys at North American and Reaction Motors finally answered the question burning in every ten-year-old's mind "What would happen if you dropped a bigass rocket with a guy inside it from a B-52 and lit the fuse?" The answer was "X-15". In the X-15, if you wanted astronaut wings and didn't want to mess with all that Cape Canaveral rigamarole, all you had to do was yank back on the stick.

At the other end of the scale, in 1960 two guys climbed into a six-and-a-half foot metal sphere and took four hours and forty-eight minutes to travel not quite seven miles. But they traveled those almost-seven miles straight down, to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, in the bathyscaphe Trieste. I don't know about you, but sitting in a little steel ball for eight hours knowing that external pressures were rising as high as one Volkswagen per postage stamp and the nearest air was seven miles away would give me a terminal case of screaming claustrophobia. Not these guys, though; they just sat around, calm as test pilots, munching chocolate bars and looking at weird fish.

Cool stuff.

16 comments:

BobG said...

I remember them well. Of course, I also remember the Sputnik...damn, I feel old...

Rabbit said...

I knew a cranky old fart who was the crewchief for the X15 missions. He had the certificates and a wall full of photos of himself with Neil Armstrong, among others, standing beside it.

Yeah, he had some wild stories.

Regards,
Rabbit.

Rustmeister said...

I hear ya.

Under water is one place I don't want to be. Not like that, anyway.

Billy Beck said...

The Wikipedia article on Scott Crossfield briefly mentions the X-15 explosion on June 8, 1960, when the XLR-99 engine blew up during a static test. It doesn't describe how, when it went off, it blew the nose off the airplane and about twenty-five feet away.

For the rest of his life, Crossfield was pissed-off because the Air Force wouldn't let him log that flight time.

I could be wrong, but I just don't think they make 'em like that anymore.

triticale said...

Makes up for the tarrier who was docked for the time he was up in the air...

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the X-15. The pilots were set to become America's next heroes, but were swept off the stage by the Mercury astronauts. The X-15 pilots were pissed because the Mercury astronauts were simply supposed to be "spam in a can" and not actually do any piloting ('till the Mercury astronauts revolted against NASA managment...)

I was assigned to read "The Right Stuff" for a history class. Great book and great movie...about the only book I have been assigned that I truly enjoyed reading...

And the only book i haven't sold back...

rickn8or said...

Rabbit--

Hey, when it's getting near the end of the quarter and you don't got your twelve hours, you start getting inventive...

Tam said...

"I could be wrong, but I just don't think they make 'em like that anymore."

I don't know that they actually made X-15 pilots say "Hold my beer" before strapping in, but if they didn't, they should have.

Ralphe said...

And they were as giants when such men walked the earth, and we will not see their likes again. But we can hope and dream.
I spent so much time in the 50's and 60's reading about this kind of stuff and then thinking about how the world would look when I got old enough to experience it, that the let down was considerable.
I haven't given up all hope for the future. One thing is sure, the government will not get us there.

comatus said...

They all smoked cigarettes.

Tam said...

Damn straight they did. And not the sissy kind with filters, either.

Ben said...

It must have been an exciting time to live in. Not that there haven't been some exciting programs in my lifetime, but that was the golden age. My hat's off to the bunch of em.

It was a time when cigarettes, alcohol, and fried breakfasts were still good for you.

Eric said...

Forget the X-1! I would LOVE to be able to explore the deeps in a modern type of Trieste. They are still finding new and old things under the oceans surface. Then again, I get frustrated because I let my diving certs expire and haven't been down in over 10 years....

Matt G said...

"Forget the X-1!"

?!?

Eric, you are treading very, very close to the line of heresy.

Tell you what-- why don't we just forget that you said that, okay?

And, seriously: lay off the strong drink before posting.

;)

comatus said...

What Matt said.

Got any Beeman's?

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Under water is one place I don't want to be. Not like that, anyway.

Heh. I spent 13 years in submarines, and I wouldn't want to go down in one of those things, either.