The M2-F2 was a NASA design to investigate the feasibility of an aircraft with no wings. The shape of the craft itself would provide the lift. It was thought that by eliminating a conventional wing you would also eliminate the drag that comes with it. During the 60s and 70s, lifting bodies were a primary area of research into their use as small manned spacecraft. Eventually, the Air Force lost interest in the project, and NASA turned its efforts to the Space Shuttle.

The M2-F2 Lifting Body is shown here being carried aloft by the Air Force's B-52 (tail number 003) prior to a research launch.

The M2-F2 Lifting Body returns from a research flight at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., with an F-104 flying chase.


NASA research pilot Milt Thompson sits in the M2-F2 "heavyweight" lifting body research vehicle before a 1966 test flight.


A head-on view of the M2-F2 lifting body mounted on the wing pylon of its B-52 mothership in 1965. This was for a captive flight made the following month. The M2-F2 remained attached to the B-52 throughout the flight to test its on-board systems.

You oldsters out there will remember the opening to The Six Million Dollar Man. It used footage of Bruce Peterson's crash in an M2-F2 to explain how Steve Austin (a man barely alive) came to be fodder for bionic upgrades. In the real crash, Peterson experienced pilot induced oscillation but recovered control, then tried to avoid an observation helicopter, drifted in a crosswind and crashed. Peterson was badly injured, but survived the crash, only to lose an eye to a staph infection in the hospital.


Photos via NASA