Science

NASA's Research Airplanes Take Flight

By Paul Pajarillo , Nov 27, 2015 06:53 AM EST
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NASA has revived its flight-worthy WB-57 research airplanes. The planes will once again be used to study the Earth's atmosphere and collect cosmic dust samples.

NASA's three WB-57 airplanes displayed at Houston's near Johnson Space Center runway looked like revived prehistoric creatures. The long-winged airplanes looked like dinosaurs, measuring 21 meters long of its wingspan.

It had been four decades ago since the airplanes flew together. The revived NASA planes rolled down the Ellington Airport one by one as they took off the ground and slowly climbed up to the clear skies.

The planes were able to fly again in recognition to NASA's restoration program to bring its third WB-57 back to life from the space administration's spacecraft graveyard.

The WB-57 airplanes were part of NASA's broad-ranging science missions dating back to 1972. Most recently, two of its three airplanes flew high above hurricane Patricia and Joaquin to study cloud patterns and behavior. These hurricanes were major storms in the Pacific Ocean's eastern parts.

In addition, these planes went on missions collecting cosmic dusts from asteroids and comets of the Earth's upper atmosphere. It also investigated cloud patterns and environmental effects of falling space shuttles and rockets on the stratosphere.

The historic airplanes dates back as early as 1944 when an English electric company known as Canberra developed Martin B-57s during the Korean War. Also, the British Royal Air Force used these planes to cross the Atlantic at a record-breaking four hours and 40 minutes. These planes were the first of its kind to use jet engines to cross the Atlantic without refueling. The U.S. Air Force bought these planes from the Brits to replace its old A-26 Invaders.

To be able to revive the old airplanes, the space administration needed to go to museums to purchase its parts. After years of restoration, the airplanes have returned to their flying ranks. The third airplane, now known as the NASA 927, have set a record of more than four decades from the time of its retirement to the time of its return to the skies.

After a series of test flights, the planes will be resuming their missions for the United States Space Administration.

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