Aeronautics: Flying Flatiron

Some 45,000 ft. above the Southern California desert last week, a B-52 bomber cut loose the strange cargo tucked under its wing. Freed from the mother ship, a gleaming but cumbersome aluminum shape that looked like a huge inverted flatiron dived toward what seemed to be sure destruction on the earth below.

Suddenly the steep plummeting dive changed to a semblance of flight. Under control of Veteran NASA Test Pilot Milton Thompson, the experimental M2-F2 "lifting body" demonstrated an uncanny ability to maneuver. Wingless and powerless, the 21-ton, 22-ft.-long craft swung through two 90° turns as it dropped through its...