Sunday, April 25, 2010

Robert White, X-15 test pilot and space pioneer, dies

I want to pause a moment to reflect on the astonishing career of Major General Robert White, who passed away March 19, 2010. Robert White was not nearly as well known as some other early USAF test pilots, such as Chuck Yeager, but he was equally -- perhaps more -- famous and accomplished.

Nearly 50 years ago, Robert White was the Chief Test Pilot for the X-15 rocket-powered airplane. I remember being in awe of him as I built my model X-15.

He was the first man to break Mach 4. And the first man to break Mach 5. And the first man to break Mach 6 -- > 4,000 mph at an altitude of 59 miles

That was 50 years ago. No one has come close since. And at last he has slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings. Farewell Robert White.

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