Maj. Michael Adams - Astronaut

On the morning of, November 15th, 1967, USAF Test pilot Maj. Michael Adams climbed into his X-15 rocket ship for the last time; His seventh X-15 flight, Flight, number 3-65-97.

During the ascent portion of the flight, the first of a long series of small technical problems began to arise. During the flight, Adams successfully reached a peak altitude of 266,000 feet.

It was during the Zero G and early reentry phases, that further problems occurred. During the descent phase, the nose of the aircraft deviated by 15 degrees to the right, at 230,000 feet the aircraft encountered rapidly increasing aerodynamic pressure which impinged on the airframe, causing the X-15 to enter a violent Mach 5 spin. Maj. Adams found himself in history's first hypersonic spin, and thanks to his superior pilot skills, the first subsequent recovery from a hypersonic spin.

Unfortunately, the incredibly high G forces encountered during the spin overloaded the ships' computer-assisted aerodynamic and reaction flight control systems.

When Adams then applied control pressure to the stick and rudder, the commands were improperly translated to the control systems. The ship entered another spin. At this point, the dynamic forces were more than the ship could handle. As the X-15 passed through 65,000 feet, it was diving at Mach 3.93 and experiencing more than 15 G vertically (positive and negative), and 8 G laterally, which inevitably exceeded the design limits of the aircraft, and broke up 10 minutes and 35 seconds after launch.

Not much mention was made of this event due to the recent loss of the Apollo 1 crew and the preparation for the upcoming Apollo 7 flight. Maj Mike Adams and the 10th space flight of the X-15 program faded into history.

The United States Air Force posthumously awarded him Astronaut Wings for his last flight, making Adams the first American killed in space.


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