Space Cover #258: Bill Dana and the X-15
Well, in our ongoing bios of unsung X-15 pilots (SCOTW's 80, 143, 165, 196, 207, 226, 243, and 253), let's now focus on NASA pilot Bill Dana.
Bill Dana graduated from West Point in 1952 and became an Air Force pilot. He left the service four years later to pursue a master's degree in engineering, and then joined NASA at Edwards AFB in 1958. Dana's first job there was to write an algorithm for the X-15 simulator, and from that point on he was associated with the project until its end. He began flying chase for X-15 missions in 1962. When Milt Thompson finished flying the X-15 in 1965, Dana took over his spot. Dana's first X-15 mission took place on November 4, 1965.
On Dana's sixth mission, on November 1, 1966, he soared to over 58 miles altitude, earning him a belated set of astronaut wings (the NASA pilots who broke the 50 mile altitude limit did not receive astronaut wings until many years later). The cover above was hand canceled for that flight at Edwards. It carries a Sokolsky Cachet, NASA FRC corner card rubber stamp, and has been autographed by Dana.
Dana broke the 50 mile mark again on his 15th mission, on August 21, 1968 (autographed Boy Scout Cachet above). On October 24, 1968 Bill Dana flew the 199th and final mission of the X-15 program. In total he completed 16 missions in the X-15.
He went on to fly the wingless "lifting body" rocketplanes that provided data for the upcoming Space Shuttle. The cover above was postmarked for Dana's checkout flight in the HL-10 lifting body (Boy Scout cachet, autographed by Dana) on April 25, 1969. He piloted nine flights of the HL-10. The cover below was postmarked for the first flight of the M2-F3 lifting body, which was performed by Dana on June 2, 1970. He piloted 20 missions in the M2-F3.
Dana also flew the X-24B lifting body twice in 1975. He continued other flight test work until 1993, then served as the Chief Engineer at NASA Dryden until his retirement in 1998.