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  The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space (Michelle L. Evans) (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space (Michelle L. Evans)
cspg
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posted 10-31-2012 11:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space
by Michelle L. Evans
Foreword by Joe Engle
With the Soviet Union's launch of the first Sputnik satellite in 1957, the Cold War soared to new heights as Americans feared losing the race into space. The X-15 Rocket Plane tells the enthralling yet little-known story of the hypersonic X-15, the winged rocket ship that met this challenge and opened the way into human-controlled spaceflight.

Drawing on interviews with those who were there, Michelle Evans captures the drama and excitement of, yes, rocket science: how to handle the heat generated at speeds up to Mach 7, how to make a rocket propulsion system that could throttle, and how to safely reenter the atmosphere from space and make a precision landing.

This book puts a human face on the feats of science and engineering that went into the X-15 program, many of them critical to the development of the Space Shuttle.

And, finally, it introduces us to the largely unsung pilots of the X-15. By the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing, thirty-one American astronauts had flown into space--eight of them astronaut-pilots of the X-15. The X-15 Rocket Plane restores these pioneers, and the others who made it happen, to their rightful place in the history of spaceflight.

Michelle Evans is the founder of Mach 25 Media and is an aerospace writer, photographer, and education specialist. She served in the U.S. Air Force working on nuclear missiles, is the producer of several documentaries about space exploration, and is a contributor to Space Daily, Space.com, and Ad Astra.

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (June 1, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0803228406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803228405

onesmallstep
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posted 10-31-2012 03:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Eagerly awaiting this one, and saving a spot on my shelf next to the X-15 books by Scott Crossfield, Milt Thompson and Apogee Books.

ea757grrl
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posted 10-31-2012 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All right! Can't wait for this one. Congratulations, Michelle!

astro-nut
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posted 04-06-2013 02:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for astro-nut   Click Here to Email astro-nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This book should definitely be a great read. I, too, cannot wait for this one!!

ColinBurgess
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posted 04-11-2013 05:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great news everyone: Michelle's X-15 book has just arrived at the publisher's warehouse, so copies can now be purchased directly from the University of Nebraska Press or through other booksellers, and delivery should only be a few days from now.

The other great news is that, despite serious physical problems often requiring hospitalisation and surgery, Michelle has kept her spirits up by creating an amazing website relating to her book, containing hundreds of photographs, information, guides and data that simply could not fit into what is already quite a large book. If you have any interest at all in this remarkable research aircraft I urge you to check out Michelle's awesome website and you'll be amazed at the amount of information you'll uncover.

Recent years have been extraordinarily hard for Michelle health-wise, and I must pay testament to her courage and stamina in putting together this great book - the definitive X-15 story for sure - despite constant and often terrible pain and misery. It is a magnificent tribute to her and the long-time passion she has held for this winged airplane and those who flew and worked with it.

As the Outward Odyssey series editor I have read the manuscript many times and I know that this is going to be a book any X-15 enthusiast or spaceflight aficionado must have. It's honestly not a sales pitch, folks - I am merely stating a fact.

cspg
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posted 04-11-2013 05:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just had a small peak at pictures posted on her website. A XB-70 serving as launch platform for a X-15? WOW! Artists rendering of possible X-15 concepts also look absolutely stunning. And WOW again!

ea757grrl
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posted 04-11-2013 07:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just from a look at the supplemental website, this looks like a triumph. Congratulations, Michelle. I can't wait to get this book.

nelyubov
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posted 04-11-2013 08:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nelyubov   Click Here to Email nelyubov     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fantastic -- I ordered from amazon months ago and can't wait to read it! The website is also great.

alanh_7
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posted 04-11-2013 09:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That is a really impressive web site.

x15gal
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posted 04-12-2013 01:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you all for your kind comments, and especially to Colin for his belief in my abilities as a writer to eventually pull this off. I am very much looking forward to hearing reactions once people get a chance to read the book. You'll find that the web site I have set up for the book all matches up pretty well with the story, so you can consider this a truly extensively-illustrated edition! — Michelle

x15gal
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posted 04-18-2013 02:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just wanted to let everyone know that my author's copies of the books arrived this afternoon. I am amazed beyond words as I never thought I would see this day. I sincerely hope that everyone out there who has a chance to read this will enjoy every page of what I've had to say about the X-15.

Jurg Bolli
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posted 04-18-2013 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am sure that most of us X-15 enthusiasts will buy a copy. I look forward to it.

BMacKinnon
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posted 04-20-2013 06:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BMacKinnon   Click Here to Email BMacKinnon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I ordered my copy from the publisher and it arrived yesterday! Super fast service. I am looking forward to reading this book! Just taking a quick look last night at the illustrations and the forward by Joe Engle, if I start reading it today, I might not be able to put it down!

x15gal
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posted 05-06-2013 12:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just thought I'd check in and see if anyone has had a chance to read the book yet. Would love to hear what readers have to say.

cspg
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posted 05-06-2013 05:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There's one review on amazon (5 stars).

Kite
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posted 05-06-2013 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kite     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Have ordered and waiting for arrival. Will certainly let you know my thoughts about it when finished reading and I am looking forward to it immensely. It will go well with my 'At the Edge of Space' by Milt Thompson. Good luck with the sales.

ColinBurgess
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posted 05-06-2013 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a marvellous interview with Michelle Evans today at Space.com in which she discusses the background behind the writing of this amazing book.

Gilbert
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posted 05-07-2013 10:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gilbert   Click Here to Email Gilbert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My copy just arrived. It is an awesome book, can't wait to start reading it. I've been looking forward to this book for a long time.

x15gal
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posted 05-11-2013 12:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thommy Eriksson, an amazing artist from Sweden, did some fabulous artwork for my book about the X-15. He has refused to accept any payment for what he accomplished. In my opinion this is the best art ever created representing the X-15. He shows it in ways never before depicted and in photo-realistic style.

Because of the work he has done, I was looking for a way for him to receive some return for the years of work he invested into this project. With that in mind, he has now given me permission to offer his work for sale as high-quality art prints in various sizes. If you have any interest in beautiful images of a really great aircraft/spacecraft, please check out what is available here.

Also on that page, I had many requests to offer embroidered program patches which I designed for the X-15, so that too is now available.

Thanks for checking it out and for your support of what Thommy has done.

hinkler
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posted 05-11-2013 03:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for hinkler   Click Here to Email hinkler     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My copy of The X-15 Rocket Plane arrived in Oz on Friday. I have finished reading it and would like to pass on my congratulations to Michelle on her book and research and to Colin Burgess as Series Editor.

If you have any interest in the X-15, buy this book. I enjoyed it very much.

I would love to hear the interviews with the pilots, ground crew etc and families if they are ever available.

I knew Jack McKay survived a crash but had no idea of the extent of his injuries or the long term health effects of the injuries. That might well explain the variance in his signatures after that time.

Congratulations and well done Michelle and Colin.

David C
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posted 05-12-2013 05:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice job Michelle.

I just cover-to-covered it in one day, so I guess you could say that I enjoyed it. It does an excellent job of fleshing out some of the personalities and mentioning some of the more contoversial events during the project. Most of them aren't news, but this is the frankest discussion of many of them that I've seen in print. It even manages to throw up a few technical snipets that aren't obvious from the host of engineering books about the program.

For me the stand out chapters were those about Jack McKay, Forest Petersen and Mike Adams. I was surprised to see that some people were initially so open in their prejudice against Bob Rushworth (their attitude however was no surprise at all). It was nice to see some comments counter-balancing the typical uncritical and/or self-serving Chuck Yeager myth-making that we are continuously subjected to. A more objective view of that character is long over-due. Paul Bickle was interesting too. Great to hear from some of the relatives too. I could go on, but if you are interested in the X-15, buy it. It's not like any other of the books out there.

There's a handful of small errors, mostly typos, none having a bearing on the book's objective. I will, however mention one. The photo of a young Jack McKay on page 132 shows him sitting in a Hellcat, not a Corsair. Hey, it's a book about flying, you got to get the planes right.

David C
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posted 05-12-2013 05:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to add that I particularly like Thommy Erikson's picture of Joe Walker re-entering the atmosphere on 22 August 1963 that appears on page 60. I might just buy a copy.

stsmithva
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posted 05-12-2013 08:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I hope to read the book soon, I'll also point out that the prints by Eriksson really are amazing. I see about five that I'd love to buy 16x20s of, especially the ones that show views that would have been impossible to photograph.

garymilgrom
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posted 05-14-2013 02:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've just finished my copy and this is a great book. The author does an excellent job of relating the program and much of the technology through the eyes of those working on and flying the aircraft.

Much is spent on the mission planning and simulations, an obvious precursor to later NASA methodology. Here are the roots of such procedures.

But it is the personal anecdotes that make this book such an interesting read, whether the people involved are relatively unknown or otherwise. Imagine the words Neil, Armstrong, and grounded in the same paragraph. What a story! And further imagine Neil standing outside after dinner with a friend in 1973. Neil looks up at the moon and shares a poignant, honest, emotional thought.

I won't spoil your read but this anecdote is on page 228 of the hardcover version. Well done Michelle!

x15gal
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posted 05-15-2013 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you all for your comments after reading the book. The feedback is something I have very much been looking forward to, and am so happy that it is meeting everyone's expectations.

For David, the question has come up previously about the Hellcat vs Corsair. I did a lot of research to verify that this was a Corsair before writing the caption. However, there are models of each aircraft which do make it difficult to determine with absolute certainty from a photo that focuses on the cockpit as the one in the book does. Since McKay only flew Corsairs and the cockpit does match the Corsair it was determined to go with this ID. It is possible that he was not in an aircraft he was to fly, but just to sit for a portrait, so there is a slight possibility it could be a Hellcat, but Corsair seems much more likely.

With that said, I understand why you might think Hellcat, especially if you go to the wikipedia page for the Corsair, which right at the top shows the F4U with a sort of bubble canopy and not the side panels as shown in the book photo. However, scroll down to later photos and it becomes clear that the cockpit canopy changed to the one shown in the photo with the side panels. This can be seen most clearly in photos 2, 4, 14, and 17, coming down from the top of the page.

And if anyone does come across specific typos in the text, please always feel free to drop me a note. We worked very hard to eliminate any, but something always creeps in. If there is anything that needs changing, I would definitely want that to happen if the book goes to paperback release.

x15gal
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posted 05-16-2013 08:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just got back from seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness. Wonderful film, but also just had to pass on that it is especially cool since now the X-15 is listed in the official lineage of Starfleet. It's only a fleeting glimpse, but a very important one.

GoesTo11
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posted 05-16-2013 09:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm going to see the movie this weekend... when should I look for that, so I don't miss it?

David C
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posted 05-17-2013 02:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by x15gal:
...there is a slight possibility it could be a Hellcat, but Corsair seems much more likely.
It's unquestionably a Hellcat. The Corsair to which you refer is the early "birdcage" canopy variant, the angle between the canopy rail and base of canopy of the Corsair and Hellcat are completely different. Also, on a Birdcage Corsair the central vertical post in the sliding hood wraps all the way over the top, in a Hellcat it stops at the upper horizontal bar - clearly seen in the picture.

On your website you have the same picture and next to it another mis-identified Hellcat (caption McKay second from left). That's also a dead giveaway, look at the engine intake and the length of the nose. I would suggest that if those are his squadron buddies, they were a Hellcat outfit at some stage. It should be easy to check what his squadron were equipped with. You will see it has an identical canopy to the previous picture.

Unlike you I have had no access to McKay's logbooks so I don't know what he flew. However, in those days if you were qualified on fighters swapping between types was relatively informal, often consisting of just a few words about speeds and switches. The Hellcat was also more numerous early on and I'd be very surprised if a naval aviator (on fighters anyway) of that era hadn't at least flown a fam in one.

It's also possible that when the pictures were taken McKay was a recent replacement and the squadron were transitioning to the Corsair. If so, he may have been photographed with but not actually flown one.

By the way, I'm a retired naval aviator (of much more recent vintage), and used to fly warbirds. I can see how a non-aviator/engineer could think that the two cockpits look similar, but they're really very different.

Still a great book.

x15gal
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posted 05-17-2013 10:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
David, thank you for the further clarification on the Hellcat/Corsair issue. I wish I had known someone such as yourself to be able to do a verification of the differences before publication. I did as much research as I could for a proper ID, as well as spoke with numerous family members of McKays. Everyone had agree it was the Corsair so that's what we went with.

Unfortunately, there are no log books still held with the family, and of course McKay himself left us in 1975. All the records we had available showed that he only flew the Corsair, but I know what you are saying that flying was much different in those days as far as having people get a two-minute overview to jump in a different aircraft, whereas today they would have to do much more with the sophistication of something like an F-22 being quite different from an F-15.

x15gal
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posted 05-17-2013 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GoesTo11:
I'm going to see the movie this weekend... when should I look for that, so I don't miss it?
The scene is fairly early in the movie and takes place at Strafleet HQ in San Francisco. As you might recall from some earlier Trek, they've had a display wall or something similar with the lineage of Enterprise vehicles.

In this case there is a desk in the Admiral's office which has this same lineage of models, but it goes all the way back to the Wright Brothers. There's a close-up pan of this shelf with all the models which pans right past the X-15, then it can be seen later in an overall shot of the office.

David C
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posted 05-18-2013 08:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just glad to be able to help pin it down Michelle. It's a lot easier to critique a book than to write one. I'm sure you've tried the USN direct to pin down McKay's squadron service. Have you tried the Tailhook Association? They have a wealth of expertise that they'd probably be happy to put you in touch with.

MCroft04
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posted 05-18-2013 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a small world. I was surprised to learn when reading about Major Rushworth that he was born just up the road from me in Madison, Maine. I mentioned that to a member of our local historical society and he replied that there is a book on Major Rushworth at our history house. Sue enough I found it at our meeting this morning; it is actually a souvenir program of a homecoming tribute in August 1963, with some nice photo's. Another society member saw me with the program and told me that he recalls Major Rushworth buzzing his mother-in-law's house in nearby Norridgewock when he was flying out of Bangor. Apparently he did it many, many times. Oh for the good old days.

x15gal
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posted 05-18-2013 11:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Would love to see that homecoming tribute. If you ever have a chance to scan it and send it along, that would be really wonderful.

After he passed away in 1993 he was interred at Forest Hills Cemetery back in his hometown of Madison. Hope to go there someday and pay my respects. I often wonder what happened to all his X-15 memorabilia as it appeared that his family had no real interest in it, which is very sad. He showed us one of his prized possessions when Cherie and I first interviewed him. He had attended a meeting of the SETP after the Apollo 11 mission, and as far as he knew he was the only person there who happened to get the autographs of two very famous aviators on the cover of his program: Neil Armstrong and Charles Lindbergh! Can you imagine having met both of those men on the same day in the same room.

MCroft04
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posted 05-19-2013 08:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll scan the program and email to you; there are only a few pages dedicated to Major Rushworth; the rest are advertisements.

Regarding memorabilia, I was told by the locals here that the Madison Historical Society has a collection donated by Major Rushworth, so next Saturday I plan to drive over and see what they have. Perhaps I can also find his grave.

On edit, the scans have been emailed to the email address listed on your cS profile.

To clarify the buzzing by Major Rushworth. He married a girl from nearby Norridgewock, and that is where his mother-in-law lived.

x15gal
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posted 05-19-2013 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for doing those scans. They look great. If you run across anything else that you think might be of interest from his collection, would love to see that as well. Rushworth was the pilot who did the most flights on the X-15 program, yet is known the least, so it was wonderful to be able to introduce him to more people, especially to those such as yourself who now find a personal connection through his home town. I hope I have a chance to come visit Madison myself one day. Have a great time going through his collection at the historical society.

GoesTo11
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posted 05-21-2013 10:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Received the book today, and can't wait to delve into it.

Meantime, since Michelle noted it, here's a close-up of the X-15 model created by Quantum Mechanix for the scene in Admiral Marcus' office:

QMX say that replicas of some of these models will be available for sale, but I'm not clear on whether or not these releases will include replicas of actual craft like the X-15, or will be limited to ships of the Trek universe. Stay tuned, I guess.

x15gal
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posted 05-22-2013 12:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They did a great job on the model, giving it a lot more definition than you usually would see in a standard desk model. I'm wondering if they created this from scratch or used a commercially available kit, such as those from Special Hobbies. Need a still shot of the scene to try and figure what scale it was in to see if one of those kits might fit. From the curve of the nose, I am pretty sure it is one of their kits.

cspg
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posted 05-22-2013 08:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A diecast of this model would be nice. Dragon's model at 1:144 is way too small.

x15gal
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posted 05-25-2013 01:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for x15gal   Click Here to Email x15gal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is some talk of doing a pre-built, highly-detailed 1/18th scale X-15. Would love to see that project come to fruition, but it would certainly be a hard one to find room for in your living room at nearly three feet in length. I have one myself that is about 4 feet long that is an original model from the 1960s.

In kit form there are the Revell 1/64th, then the Revell/Monogram 1/72nd, along with Special Hobbies 1/72nd, 1/48th, and 1/32nd. There are also many other kits out there in various scales.

NAAmodel#240
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posted 05-25-2013 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Michelle, wrote my friend Dave Stoddard that I was mentioned in an acknowledgment to a new book and that I knew nothing about. The next day a copy from him came in the mail.

As you know, Dave knows his stuff and he says your work is terrific. Looking forward to reading it. You are probably one of a scant few that understands my username. Congratulations — David


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