Inducted in 1971
First Astronaut Designee In A Winged Aircraft, 1962
1924 – 2010
The first men to reach space were aboard capsules, but great advancements were simultaneously being made with controlled airplane flights to the rarefied higher altitudes. Major Robert White earned “astronaut” rating by flying a winged aircraft to the lower edge of space on July 17, 1962.
White climbed to 59.6 miles (314,000 feet) above the earth’s surface in the North American X-15. This experimental, high-altitude rocket plane had passed its first test in 1959 and was progressively developed until White flew the craft, powered with 60,000 pounds of thrust, at 4,105 miles per hour.
Between 1959 and 1968, X-15s performed 199 test flights. In October 1967, a rebuilt X-15A-2 reached a speed of 4,534 miles per hour, the fastest recorded speed achieved thus far in normal flight.
White retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Major General.