NASA B-52 Launching X-24A in 1970

b 52 x 24 a  NASA B-52 Launching X-24A in 1970(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.

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