People: Jul. 26, 1963

On his 24th flight in the record-blistering X-15 rocket plane, Ace NASA Test Pilot Joe Walker, 42, was just supposed to nudge the 59.6-mile altitude record. But when he touched down at California's Edwards Air Force Base, he found that he had busted it wide open. NASA's tentative estimate of the new record for winged aircraft: 350,000 ft. (almost 67 miles). Walker's speed was 3,818 m.p.h., close to six times that of sound, and as he blasted upward into the blackness, he trailed a small balloon designed to make air-density measurements. "Yup," cracked Joe,...

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