Inspired by its feature role in First Man, a closer look at the first aircraft to fly into space.
In the annotated screenplay for First Man, author Josh Singer was asked “why start with the X-15?” for the gripping opening scene in the movie. His answer was simple: “we fell in love with the aircraft. The fastest and highest flying…ever built…[it] flew well over Mach 6 (4,520 miles per hour) and more than 50 miles high, well outside the sensible atmosphere.” Singer’s collaborator and Neil Armstrong’s official biographer, James R. Hansen, adds a fascinating historical footnote: the eponymous first man “really didn’t enjoy talking about the Moon landing, probably because that was all anyone ever asked him about. But ask him about the…X-15 and he’d talk a blue streak.”
It’s not surprising the famously taciturn pilot-first-astronaut-later Neil Armstrong was a chatterbox when it came to this remarkable aircraft...
Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. (photo: Air Force Flight Test Center History Office)