(Image: NASA, public domain)
This stunning photograph, which reflects the pioneering days of post World War Two aviation research and development, shows the NASA Boeing NB-52B mothership – nicknamed Balls 8 – launching the X-24A experimental lifting body aircraft in 1970. The rocket-powered Martin Marietta X-24A flew 28 times from 1963 to 1972 before modification to the more stable X-24B, validating the concept that the Space Shuttle could land unpowered. Balls 8, serial number 52-008, first flew in 1955 and was the oldest active B-52 at the time of its retirement in 2004. The long serving aircraft now on public display at the north gate of Edwards Air Force Base.