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North_American_X-15

North American X-15 Top Speed: 4,520 MPH A hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. As of September 2015, the X-15 holds the official world record for the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft. It could reach a top speed of 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h), or Mach 6.72. During the X-15 program, 13 flights by eight pilots met the Air Force spaceflight criterion by exceeding the altitude of 50 miles (80 km), thus qualifying these pilots as being astronauts. The Air Force pilots qualified for astronaut wings immediately, while the civilian pilots were eventually awarded NASA astronaut wings in 2005, 35 years after the last X-15 flight. The only Navy pilot in the X-15 program never took the aircraft above the requisite 50 mile altitude and so as a result, never earned himself astronaut wings.

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A solar powered guardian device under development at NASA is meant to push a threatening asteroid off course, and away from Earth. It is part of a new planetary defense effort by the federal space agency against threats from asteroids, comets and other inbound objects. (Image from NASA)

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NASA Astronaut during a space walk (Image from NASA)

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This image made available by NASA on Friday, July 24, 2015, shows a combination of images captured by the New Horizons spacecraft with enhanced colors to show differences in the composition and texture of Pluto's surface. The New Horizons was programmed to fire its thrusters Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, putting it on track to fly past a recently discovered, less than 30-mile-wide object out on the solar system frontier. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI via AP)

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This panorama provided by NASA of a Martian hilltop was taken Jan. 6, 2015, by the NASA rover Opportunity. (NASA via Associated Press)

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A NASA time exposure image of the Perseid meteor shower. (Fred Bruenjes)

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This image made available by NASA on Friday, July 24, 2015 shows Pluto made by combining several images from two cameras on the New Horizons spacecraft. The images were taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away from Pluto. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI via AP)

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FILE - In this Wednesday, March 4, 2015 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly sits inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. On Thursday, July 16, 2015, a piece of space junk forced the three International Space Station astronauts, including Kelly, to seek emergency shelter in their Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station, in case they had to make a quick getaway. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

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This July 13, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft. The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Pluto was No. 9 in the lineup when New Horizons departed Cape Canaveral, Fla, on Jan. 19, 2006 (NASA via AP)

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This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Pluto was No. 9 in the lineup when New Horizons departed Cape Canaveral, Fla, on Jan. 19, 2006 (NASA via AP)

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This July 11, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. On Tuesday, July 14, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will come closest to Pluto. New Horizons has traveled 3 billion miles over 9½ years to get to the historic point. (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via AP)

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This July 11, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. (Associated Press)

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This July 11, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. (Associated Press)

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NASA used rapid prototyping to build its Greased Lightning (GL-10) drone, which has 10 engines and can fly like a helicopter or an plane. (Image: NASA)

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In this April 25, 1990, photograph provided by NASA, most of the giant Hubble Space Telescope can be seen as it is suspended in space by Discovery's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) following the deployment of part of its solar panels and antennae. (NASA via AP)

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(Image: NASA)

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In this photo provided by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly sits inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC), Wednesday, March 4, 2015 in Star City, Russia. On Saturday, March 28, 2015, Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will travel to the International Space Station to begin a year-long mission living in orbit. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

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Life there, once upon a time? NASA scientists say a primitive ocean on Mars held more water than Earth's Arctic Ocean. (NASA/GSFC)

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This Feb. 19, 2015, file image provided by NASA shows the dwarf planet Ceres, taken by the space agency's Dawn spacecraft from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). On Friday, March 6, 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrives at the mysterious dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter after a nearly eight-year journey. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA, File)

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In this image made from video provided by NASA, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti checks the helmet of astronaut Terry Virts inside the International Space Station on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Virts reported the water while he waited in the air lock for Wednesday's spacewalk to formally conclude. (AP Photo/NASA) ** FILE **