Partner Series

Welcome to "On This Day ... in Space!" where we peer back in our archives to find historic moments in spaceflight and astronomy. So enjoy a blast from the past with Space.com's Hanneke Weitering to look back at what happened on this day in space!

On Aug. 16, 1963, NASA's M2-F1 aircraft prototype made its first glide flight.

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This wingless aircraft kind of looked like a flying bathtub. NASA made it to test a new concept called the lifting body, which was an unpowered glider that provided an alternative way to return piloted spacecraft to Earth. Instead of pummeling out of the sky in a ballistic reentry, the lifting body landed sort of like an airplane. 

NASA Flight Research Center pilot Milt Thompson, shown here on the lakebed with the M2-F1 lifting body, a wingless aircraft that soared on test flights in 1963.
NASA Flight Research Center pilot Milt Thompson, shown here on the lakebed with the M2-F1 lifting body, a wingless aircraft that soared on test flights in 1963.
Credit: NASA

For its first test flight, the M2-F1 was towed 12,000 feet into the air by a C-47 Skytrain and then released. Test pilot Milt Thompson was in the cockpit, and he brought the glider in for a smooth landing in California after a two-minute descent.

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Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+