Bill Dana, American space pioneer, 1960s.
© National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society
In the turbulent era of 1960s Cold War confrontations, Moon race headlines, and war in southeast Asia, eight test pilots quietly flew the radical X-15 rocket plane out of the atmosphere and into the record books, earning astronaut status. One of those pilots, NASA research pilot Bill Dana, is seen here next to the X-15 #3 rocket-powered aircraft after a flight. Formerly an aerospace research pilot at Dryden, Dana flew the F-15 HiDEC research aircraft and the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration/F-16 aircraft and later became chief engineer at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Centre. Dana flew the X-15 research airplane 16 times, reaching a top speed of 3,897 miles per hour and a peak altitude of 310,000 feet (almost 59 miles high).