Autographed by Maj. Gen. Joe H. Engle.

L/E of 850. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Size: 33 1/2" x 20 3/4"*

Price: $135

Ten-thirty AM, Tuesday, June 29, 1965, Edwards Air Force Base, California. Two small dark specks appear on the distant horizon, descending rapidly over the eastern edge of Rogers Dry Lake, one trailing a smoky exhaust, the other powerless, gliding down like a rock. On the shimmering lakebed, the ground crew lights a red smoke grenade to indicate wind direction. As the specks grow larger, one emerges into a Lockheed F-lO4 Starfighter, the other a jet-black, dart-like experimental aircraft built by North American Aviation Corporation. It is the X-15, a mantis-shaped missile with its dual nosewheels and main landing skids extended scant seconds before it approaches the surface of the lakebed at a blistering speed of nearly 300 mph! As the exotic black rocketplane gently touches down on Runway 18, the research program's 138th mission comes to an end, and its 32-year-old pilot enters the history books as the youngest ever to qualify as an astronaut.

Air Force Captain Joe H. Engle earned that distinction by flying the third of three X-15s built, S/N 56-6672, to an altitude of 280,600 feet, more than fifty miles above the earth's surface in what officially qualifies as outer space. Although U.S. manned spaceflights had been underway for four years with the Mercury and Gemini orbital programs, only 3 other pilots had flown North America's winged missile into the far reaches of space. By the end of the X-15 program in 1968, 5 more pilots would join the exclusive rank of men becoming astronauts in a winged aircraft!

Joe Engle became the eighth pilot to fly the X-15 on October 7, 1963, reaching Mach 4.21 and 77,000 feet on his first flight. He flew phases VII and VIII of the test program, focusing on high-speed stability and control, and scientific experimentation with a variety of cameras and data packages carried aloft. His first flight above 100,000 ft. occurred January 8, 1964 with a mission to evaluate stability augmentation systems, and was also Joe's first flight faster than Mach 5. Subsequent missions included tests for wingtip pods, heat transfer systems, and the ablative material later used on the X-15A-2 plus numerous tests for advanced re-entry techniques. He reached a top speed of Mach 5.71 (3,888 mph), and achieved a maximum altitude of 280,600 feet on his fourteenth flight, the landing of which is depicted in this image. Although his 16th and final X-15 flight occurred on October 14, 1965, Joe still considers the X-15 his all-time favorite airplane of the more than 180 different types he's flown to date.

The program's ultimate altitude record of 354,200 feet was set by NASA Chief X-15 pilot, Joe Walker, on Aug. 22, 1963, and the aircraft's ultimate speed of Mach 6.7 (4,520 mph!) was reached on Oct. 3, 1967 by Air Force Maj. William J. "Pete" Knight in an advanced version of the craft known as the X-15A-2. By the end of its 199-flight test program, the X-15 had become the most successful research aircraft ever flown, proving the concept of manned, rocket-boosted exo-atmospheric flight, and paving the way for precision re-entry from space to a pre-determined landing site, a concept used routinely for nearly 100 Space Shuttle missions flown since 1981.

* Size includes margins

The Pilot - Joe H. Engle

Whether commanding the Space Shuttle in orbit, flying the X-15 at Mach 5, pulling 9Gs in an F-16, or flying his own Piper L-4 "Cub", Joe H. Engle is completely at home in an airplane. Born in Abilene, Kansas, he attended the University of Kansas and graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1955. Commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program, Joe earned his pilot's wings in 1958, and was assigned to George AFB, CA flying North American F-100 Super Sabres. He graduated from the USAF Test Pilot School in 1961, and the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School in 1962, and continued on at Edwards AFB, CA in the Fighter Test Branch, flying numerous high-performance fighters. Assigned as X-15 pilot in 1963, Joe completed 16 flights in that rocket-powered aircraft, including three above 264,000 feet that qualified him for astronaut wings.

In 1966, Engle was selected by NASA as one of 19 new astronaut candidates, the only one to have previously flown in space (in the X-15)! First assigned to the Apollo Program, he served on the support crew for Apollo X, and as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo XIV. Later assigned to the Space Shuttle Program, Joe was one of four astronauts to fly the "Enterprise" approach and landing test flights launched from the back of NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft in 1977. In November, 1981 he commanded the second flight of the Shuttle "Columbia", manually flying the re-entry from Mach 25 throughout the entire approach and landing - the first and only time that a winged aerospace vehicle was manually flown from orbit to a landing! Joe later commanded the STS-51-I mission on "Discovery" in August, 1985, which captured, repaired, and redeployed the SYNCOM IV-3 satellite, and deployed three new communications satellites as well.

Joe Engle has flown 183 different aircraft types including 38 fighter and attack airplanes, logging nearly 14,000 hours including 9,700 in jets, and 224 in space. He is holder of the Harmon International, Collier, Kincheloe, Goddard and White aviation and space trophies, and his military decorations include the DOD and USAF Distinguished Service Medals, and the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster. Now retired from NASA, the USAF, and Air National Guard where he held the rank of Major General, Joe currently serves as an engineering consultant and simulation evaluation pilot for Space Shuttle modifications and other advanced piloted re-entry vehicles.