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  Space Cover 118: Mike Adams' flown X-15 cover

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 118: Mike Adams' flown X-15 cover
stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 07-17-2011 04:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 118 (July 17, 2011)

Test pilot Mike Adams carries this X-15 cover with him on his X-15 test flight of March 22, 1967, over Edwards Air Force Base, California, in the X-15-1 rocket plane. The flown cover is not cancelled until May 1, 1967, after Adams' subsequent April 28, 1967 X-15 flight. It is presumed that Adams found that this cover had not being mailed. The black X-15 design added to this flown cover is believed to be the work of Barbara Baker, a consummate collector of early space covers who maintained an extensive correspondence with test pilots and astronauts in this time frame. Her space covers are often premium collectors' items if seen on the commercial market.

Adams types on the enclosed card of the flown cover, "This card was aboard the X-15 #1 rocket plane during the flight of March 22, 1967. I was unable to mail it the same day." /s/ Mike Adams, Major, USAF. The care and attention to detail of Adams signing both the flown cover and the cover stuffer were hallmarks of this X-15 test pilot. Adams would die in his astronaut wings flight, a fatal X-15 crash, November 15, 1967, after achieving Mach 5.2, 3,570 mph and an altitude of 50.38 miles.

Space Cover #118: Test Pilot Mike Adams' flown X-15 cover

In 1962, pilot Mike Adams had won the Experimental Test Pilot School's Honts Trophy as the best scholar and test pilot in his class at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He subsequently was selected for the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, again graduating with top honors in December 1963. Adams was one of only four Edwards Air Force Base aerospace research pilots to train in the five-month series of NASA Moon landing practice sessions conducted at the Martin Company, Baltimore, Maryland. On October 6, 1966, Mike Adams made his first flight as an X-15 test pilot, the culmination of many years of specialized training in hypersonic aircraft.

During his third test flight cited by this cover, Adams rocketed to Mach 5.95, 3,822 mph, and was well on his way to being one of the"best of the best" X-15 test pilots. On this test flight, though, his inertial system dropped-out after peak altitude of 133,100 feet was reached, and he lost cabin pressurization after the flight's high altitude had been reached. In the course of the test flight, he also had successfully tested research aircraft electrical loads, checked-out the aircraft's third landing skid, tested the pressure altitude indicator, X-15 sonic boom impact, and ablatives on the two X-15 stabilators.

Four test flights later on November 15, 1967, Mike Adams tragically would achieve another distinction. He would posthumously be awarded his astronaut wings after flying X-15-3 to an altitude of 266,000 feet, 50.3 miles altitude, a major achievement for the small cadre of X-15 test pilots. As he piloted his X-15 from this 50 miles high edge of space altitude, his aircraft began a rapid pitching motion of increasing severity. Diving at 160,000 feet per minute, dynamic pressures increased rapidly. Crossing 65,000 feet, he was diving at Mach 3.9 and subject to 15 g's vertically both positive and negative, and 8 g's laterally. Despite his efforts to regain control of his aircraft, the X-15 rocket plane disintegrated northeast of Johannesburg, California, only ten minutes and thirty-five seconds after launch of the test. Main wreckage of X-15-3 was discovered northwest of Cuddeback Dry Lake, California. Mike Adams had been killed and his aircraft, X-15-3, had been destroyed.

The accident investigation of Adams' death would make important improvements for further hypersonic test flights including reference to a telemetered heading indicator in the X-15 flight control room, and adding a ground based 8-ball attitude indicator in the control room so mission control personnel could see real time aircraft pitch, roll, heading, angle of attack, and sideslip data. Mike Adams most assuredly would have been one of the "best of the best" X-15 test pilots if he could have survived this tragic accident. He may very well have been in the same league as another very capable and successful X-15 test pilot, Neil Armstrong.

But, fate capriciously intervened. It was not to be.

cosmos-walter
Member

Posts: 406
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 07-17-2011 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Congratulations, Steve. Another great cover.

bobslittlebro
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Posts: 94
From: Douglasville, Ga U.S.A.
Registered: Nov 2009

posted 07-18-2011 03:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bobslittlebro   Click Here to Email bobslittlebro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great cover Steve!

DOX32
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Posts: 203
From: Fairfax, VA USA
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 07-18-2011 05:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DOX32   Click Here to Email DOX32     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excellent cover.

Nice to see what his signature looks like.

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 07-19-2011 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Walter, Tim, and Woody, many thanks for your kind comments about this Mike Adams' flown X-15 cover and cover card.

The two items together reemphasize the importance of taking a look inside a cover and looking at the back of the cover to see if there is anything there an X-15 cover collector may have missed.

Believe it or not, I did not look at the back of this cover until I was writing it up for SCOTW. The below message from Barbara Baker further adds to the history of this interesting flown X-15 cover. Some surprise!

albatron
Member

Posts: 2103
From: Stuart, Florida, USA
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 07-19-2011 10:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, a truly outstanding piece Steve. Flown X-15 items are truly rare.

Congrats!

micropooz
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Posts: 1239
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 07-19-2011 06:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Speaking of rare, here is the assay of known X-15 flown covers from Ellington-Zwisler:
  • March 25, 1960, Walker (3 known)
  • September 23, 1960 Petersen (3 known)
  • November 18, 1966 Knight (2 known - postmarked November 22)
  • March 22, 1967 Adams (2 known)
  • October 3, 1967 Knight (10 to 13 known – cachet artist listed 10, E-Z lists 13).

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 07-19-2011 06:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Al and Dennis, Many thanks for your additional comments. Dennis, appreciate your list of flown X-15 covers added to the SCOTW. Indeed it is a very small list.

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 07-19-2011 06:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, the X-15 rocketplace flown covers are indeed historical documents in themselves, as they are certainly an unique representation of that Golden Era of rocketplace flight test achievements.

Do you know if covers were flown by Armstrong on any of his 7 hypersonic flights from 1960-62?

To the best of my knowledge, I've never seen anything flown as being signed by the "First Man" when he was an experimental research pilot, not even from pioneer flown/carried collector Barbara Baker.

Besides known-recorded flown X-15 covers by
Walker, Petersen, Knight and Adams -- wasn't there a report in the Astrophile (or was it in another journal?) way back when that included other pilots that were not previously known in carrying mail with them?

albatron
Member

Posts: 2103
From: Stuart, Florida, USA
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 07-19-2011 07:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Pleasure Steve, thanks for sharing. X-5 is near and dear to my heart. Dennis is most certainly the go to guy for these types of things.

cosmos-walter
Member

Posts: 406
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 07-20-2011 01:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On back of my card is a remark:
10 were made and authenticated - (carried) by the pilot Maj. "Pete" Knight USAF
  1. Maj Knight
  2. Col Walt Flint USAF (NASA)
  3. Mrs. E. Goddard
  4. Harry Gordon
  5. Edmund C. Brown
  6. W.S. Numeroff
  7. Laura "
  8. Douglas (J.N.) Richter
  9. Troop 141 BSA (Edwards AFB)
  10. Knight family
(signed) William Joffe Numeroff
I believe this statement rather than EZ catalogue which also has other errors.

micropooz
Member

Posts: 1239
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 07-20-2011 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What Walter is referring to is the October 3, 1967 flown X-15 cover, hand painted by Bill Numeroff, and definitely the most striking of all X-15 flown covers.

And Walter, I agree, the conservative view is to assume that Numeroff is correct in that only 10 were made. However, if E-Z happens to be right with 13 made, then the good news is that there are three extras out there for collectors to find!

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 07-22-2011 09:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for your additional comments Dennis, Al, Walter, and Ken. In response to Ken's comment, I do not know of any Neil Armstrong flown X-15 covers and have never heard of one either. I did a sanity check with Dennis on this to see if he knew of any, but neither one of us have seen or heard of any flown Armstrong X-15 covers. I further agree with Walter in going with Bill Numeroff's data vice EZ data for the Pete Knight oversized flown cover designed by Numeroff for Knight's X-15 flight of October 3, 1967. Am checking with the Space Unit's Tom Steiner for Ken's question on the article about flown X-15 covers that appeared in the "Astrophile" possibly some time ago. Does anyone have any other additions or edits to the flown X-15 cover list? Many thanks for your comments, too!

rjurek349
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Posts: 805
From:
Registered: Jan 2002

posted 06-01-2012 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve -- while not exactly a flown cover, this item is somewhat related to the Pete Knight flown cover, and has a nice X-15 cover stamp surprise to it.

I picked up the Pete Knight flown Goddard book from his Oct 17, 1967 USAF astronaut wing flight in the latest RR Auction. The book is a small, limited edition printing of "Robert Hutchings Goddard: Father of the Space Age." It was limited to 1,926 copies, of which this is copy 67 (to go along with the year it was flown). I received it today. A fascinating item.

Anyway, this thread inspired me to "look through" the book -- like looking at the back of the flown Adams cover. I was pleased to see that the same X-15 ink stamp used on the Numeroff flown cover mentioned above and used on many of the Edwards X-15 covers was used on the inside of the book, in the back, opposite the limited edition page, only in blue ink.

I thought that a cool, and unexpected period touch to this unique,flown item. Would not have thought to look at the back until reading this thread. Given that it is the same stamp as used on many of the X-15 Edwards covers, I thought it appropriate to share here.

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