Sunday, September 03, 2006

Visiting The Site of an X-15 Crash

Today I visited the site where an X-15 crashed to Earth. On November 15, 1967, an experimental rocket plane dropped from the sky onto this very spot. It was the 191st flight of the X-15. The USAF test pilot, Major Michael Adams, was killed.

This is the second time I tried to visit this site. The first time, several years ago, there was scant information available about the site's location. The only reliable clue was the geologic formation on the hill in the background. Several others had found the site and somebody had reportedly planted a small American flag there. In May 2004, an official memorial was placed there to commemorate the tragedy.

During this flight, Major Adams experienced a spin at 230,000 ft and Mach 5, recovering at 118,000 ft. Due to technical problems and other factors, he was unable to pull out of the resulting dive, and the plane broke apart before hitting the ground. Major Adams graduated from the Univ. of Oklahoma with a degree in aeronautical engineering and then enrolled at MIT for a graduate degree but left early after being selected to join the USAF experimental test pilot school at Edwards AFB. For the non-pilots among you, that's the holy grail for pilots. Later, he was selected to become an astronaut but died before he could fulfill that dream. In 1991, he was posthumously awarded astronaut wings for his ill-fated flight.

It's interesting that something so distant from my life can draw me to a specific place. And while standing there in an otherwise unremarkable spot, cause me to pause and think about all the efforts and work of so many people. While it's fitting for a Labor Day holiday, I surely hope that I continue to take the time for such things. I think they help give meaning to the work we all do every day.

1 comment:

Bobak said...

Oh, that's so sweet! I researched the X-15 project when I was in college, it was so fantastic, that it makes me yearn for those old NASA days.