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Good Morning

Illustration for article titled Good Morning
Photo: NASA

How bout we start this week by going FAST.

In the background is the unmistakable form of the massive North American XB-70 Valkyrie, one of two prototype Mach 3+ strategic bombers designed to fly deep into Soviet territory to drop nukes on the Russkies. The arrival of Russian surface-to-air missiles put the kibosh on that mission, so the Air Force tried to turn in into a high-speed low level bomber, though it eventually gave up on the project. One of the prototypes was lost in a midair collision, and the remaining example went to NASA for testing until it was retired in 1969.

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The aircraft in the front is the rocket-powered North American X-15A-2. The A-2 was lengthened over the original X-15 and fitted with external fuel tanks. It was also covered in an ablative coating to help reduce heat at super high speeds. That coating was pink, and since real men don’t fly pink airplanes, it was covered in a coat of white paint. In 1967, test pilot Pete Knight flew the X-15A-2 to a speed of Mach 6.7 (4,520 mph) at an altitude of 102,100 feet, a record that remains unbroken to this day.


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