Start Rolling Your Blunts: NASA Is Uploading Decades of Archival Footage to YouTube

Watch a hypersonic plane go 7,000 miles per hour and more in over 500 videos of experimental aircraft pushing the limits.

|
Jul 19 2017, 10:00am

Videos unearthed from another time in flight engineering are endlessly fascinating. Until now, footage from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, has been tucked away in a forgotten corner of the internet.

AFRC is in the process of uploading it legacy video database to YouTube. So far, they've posted around 300 of the approximately 500 videos that were deemed good candidates for migration.

Spanning decades, the footage is no-fluff documentation of some of the most important flight tests and aircraft developments in NASA and Air Force history, including video of the X1 (the first aircraft to reach supersonic flight seen), the X-43A (seen in the video above in going 5,000 and 7,000 mph), testing of the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, and Space Shuttle landing research. It's also just really fun to browse through.

"NASA has so much digital content that tends to be overlooked by the public."

Before this mass uploading effort, it was a lot harder to find the database—you'd need to know to look in the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection through the Dryden Flight Research Center website, which was the name of Armstrong before the facility changed its name 2014. The social media team is moving the contents of this hidden backroom video library to front-and-center by uploading them all to their YouTube channel and their website.

"NASA has so much digital content that tends to be overlooked by the public, given the difficulty that exists in actually locating the content," Rebecca Richardson, social media manager for NASA Armstrong, told me over email. "Our hope is that by moving the content to more accessible platforms, NASA fans and media personnel will be able to access the content more regularly and become more fully immersed in what is happening at NASA."

Here are a few highlights from the collection:

In this 2001 video, a X-40A Space Maneuver Vehicle is hauled up by helicopter to 15,000 feet and dropped, free-falling in a graceful, autonomously controlled 75-second descent. This one comes complete with video from a camera aboard the vehicle as it falls.

NASA engineer Dale Reed recorded this video of a test flight of the M2-F1, also known as the "flying bathtub," in 1962 with his home movie camera.

A clip from circa 1947 depicts an unloading and reassembly of the D-558 Skystreak at Muroc Army Airfield. Four months after its maiden flight, the first Skystreak set a world speed record of 640.74 mph.

Here, a pilot descends from the bomb bay of a Navy P2B-1S mothership (these were dubbed the "Fertile Myrtle") into the cockpit of a Douglas D-558-II, or "Skyrocket" plane, below. They flew from 1948 to 1956.

1970s footage shows a C-5A aircraft in a test to visualize wing vortices at NASA's Langley Research Center. Lockheed's C-5 planes are among the largest military aircraft in the world, which is why this one's kicking up so much trippy vortex action.

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.