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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Neil Armstrong in the Pages of PopSci: 1958, 1969 and 1989

• Rose Pastore via PopSci.com
 opular Science first printed the words “Neil Armstrong” in June 1958, when the 27-year-old “tall, slim, crew-cut blond” aeronautical engineer was training for a flight in the X-15: an experimental “mile-a-second rocket plane” that would take a man to the edge of space. “The men who first fly it will take a tentative dip in the mysterious sea of outer space before future men plunge in,” wrote PopSci reporter Wesley S. Griswold.

But before he could fly the 4,000-mile-per-hour space plane, Armstrong had to test his skills under extreme G-forces in a giant Navy centrifuge in Johnsville, Pa. He would be strapped in to a working model of the X-15’s cockpit, inside a gondola attached to the end of a 50-foot rotor arm. “An incredibly complicated and ingenious hook-up between gondola, centrifuge and an analog computer enables the pilot in the gondola to put the centrifuge through dizzying maneuvers that simulate the X-15’s expected flight behavior,” Griswold wrote.

(Though Armstrong took the X-15 on seven low-altitude test flights, pilot Joseph A. Walker was the only person to fly the plane higher than 100 kilometers, the definition of a spaceflight. The X-15, retired in 1970, still holds the record for the fastest manned aircraft.)

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