Science: Rocket Explosion

The fastest (1,650 m.p.h.) and highest-flying (90,000 ft.) airplane on record came to a violent end last week. The chunky, rocket-powered Bell X-1A was fastened in its perch on the belly of its B-29 mother ship, and carried 30,000 ft. for a series of routine rolls, climbs and pushups above California's Mojave Desert. As usual, a Sabre jet fighter flew behind as a watchdog "chase" plane.

Only 70 seconds before the B-29 crew was to release the plane, an explosion ripped through the X-1A. The blast shook up Pilot Joseph Walker, but he carefully...

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