NASA's Birthday: Eight Very Odd Planes From Its Past

Categories: NASA

NASA celebrates its 53rd birthday this week, but it will be a subdued occasion as the space shuttle era ends, top talent leaves and the agency seems adrift.

In its heyday the agency didn't worry about no damn budgets, and as a result it had a hand in developing some very strange planes. Among them (All photos from the great collection of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center):

8. The Oblique-Wing Research Aircraft
In the mid-`70s NASA tested this pilotless plane to determine the effectiveness of a movable wing. It ran on a 90-horsepower engine and flew three times.


7. The Helios
A solar-powered remotely controlled craft, Helios set world altitude records for propeller planes before it, ummm, crashed in 2003.


6. The Parasev
No, not the biplane, although it's nice to see NASA keeping the WWI technology alive. The Parasev was an unmanned glider used to test various wing shapes and materials in the early `60s, in an effort to develop a resuable spacecraft.


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