It was 65 years ago that Chuck Yeager piloted the Bell X-1 to break the sound barrier – a remarkable feat at the time. Perhaps equally as remarkable was his flight Sunday at age 89, piloting an F-15 to repeat his milestone feat. Perhaps around the same time, Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier in a record-setting free fall jump from 24 miles above the Roswell, NM desert. People may opine on the mental state of such people but everyone must admire the sheer guts and will to do something that nobody has ever done before. In 1947, jet propelled aircraft were still new so Yeager’s feat carried the same uncertainty of Baumgartner’s. These are certainly not something that more than one or two people will ever do. Or will they? TBD.
Such first and amazing achievements bring future innovation. What did we learn from the Bell X-1 plane? How did it’s flight impact the modern age of jets. Did this impact the engineers’design of Concorde to account for the 6 in stretching of the fuselage during it’s near Mach 2 speeds? What about the suit that Baumgartner wore? How will it impact future astronauts clothing? What other uses of such a suit can be discovered? What about the effects on his body? How will is help us better prepare astronauts for longer distance flight at higher speeds?
It is fascinating to see the potential ripple effects of ‘first-ever’ flights (think Wilbur and Orville). While we can admire the people achieve them, and maybe more so the support staff on the ground, we can only wonder what future impacts are yet to be discovered from these remarkable events. Our technology is impacted by the dreamers – the few magical people who are always asking ‘What If?’ Here’s a ‘what if’ – What If they never got to fly, to pursue their dreams? Where would we be?
We salute you – the Few, the Bold, the Daring. The people whose pushing the envelope advance technology for the rest of us.
Thanks for reading.