The M2-F3 lifting body experimental aircraft was used by NASA to explore the characteristics of a craft that could re-enter the atmosphere and then glide like a plane in for landing. This valuable data contributed to the design of the Space Shuttle.

The M2-F3 was a rebuilt version of the M2-F2 which added a central fin to increase the stability. Perhaps the most well-known exposure most people have to this craft is the opening sequence of the popular 70’s TV show, the Six Million Dollar Man, in which the M2-F3’s predecessor, the M2-F2 is seen crashing and tumbling into a dry lake bed at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Incredibly, pilot Bruce Peterson survived the crash, which occurred on this day in 1967.

The M2-F3 pictured above is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Northrop M2-F3

Speed: 1065 mph
Ceiling: 71,500 ft
Armament: none
Crew: 1

Click on the image for a larger version.