Test pilot and astronaut (STS-2) Joe Engle explaining the X-15
2009 is also 50th birthday of the first reusable spaceship. In October 1959 the X-15 made its first flights, starting a test programme that lasted until 1968. Wednesday at Johnson Space Center pilot Joe Engle remembered his involvement with the most successful test plane ever.
X-15 flights had a great influence on the Shuttle program, since reentry parameters were very similiar. For instance, the X-15 landed "dead stick" without power. X-15 flights convinced Shuttle designers that extra turbojet engines for landing were not worth the extra weight. The X-15 flew to heights of 67 miles, earning astronaut wings for some of the pilots. Joe Engle and the other X-15 pilots flew the first spaceship.