NASA releases treasure trove of experimental flight videos dating back to the 1940s

Get ready for your productivity to drop dramatically this afternoon.

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center has uploaded hundreds of archived test flight videos from the past 70 years onto its YouTube channel, spanning its work on the Space Shuttle Program and early hypersonic breakthroughs.

Spotted by NewAtlas, the archive dates back to 1946 when the first test flights were made in California’s Mojave Desert by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Other videos show early test flights of the Bell X-1 in 1947, footage of the supersonic XB-70 Valkyrie in the 1960s, through to a two-day demonstration of the first reusable, piloted Space Shuttle Mission from 1981, and the second free flight of X-40A in 2001.

Other videos give a fascinating insight into the cockpit of the X-15 Simulator, used during the 1960s to prepare pilots for flight on the hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft.

The Armstrong Flight Research Center is NASA’s leading flight research and operations centre, set up to test advanced aeronautics, space and related technologies designed to progress the agency’s push into space.

Today, Armstrong manages the launch-abort systems’ testing and integration, in partnership with the Johnson Space Center and Lockheed Martin, for Orion, and provides space-to-ground communications support for the International Space Station.

It was directly involved in the Space Shuttle Program for more than 35 years, until the last shuttle flight in 2011, and many of the uploaded videos are from this revolutionary time.

 There are currently more than 300 videos on Armstrong’s YouTube archive, with the aim of making 500 of these videos publicly available in the coming week.

This mass upload follows the release of hundreds of declassified nuclear-test videos carried out in the US between 1945 to 1963. These tests, which were kept secret at the time, were recorded on film and locked away in hidden vaults but, because they were made from organic material, they have been slowly decomposing.

Attempts to preserve them have a limited shelf life too, so weapons physicist Greg Spriggs of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has spent the past five years scanning roughly 4,200 films (from a trove of 7,000). More than 750 have now been declassified by the government and 64 of these were released on YouTube in May. These videos cover tests made under Operation Hardtack I, Operation Dominic, Operation Teapot, Operation Castle and more.

Through Operation Hardtack I, a total of 35 nuclear tests were carried out in 1958. A total of 35.6 megatons were shot during this period.

Operation Teapot was signed off by President Eisenhower on 30 August 1954. A total of 14 tests were carried out.

Operation Dominic took place in 1962 and featured a series of 36 nuclear test explosions with a 38.1 Mt total yield conducted. The majority of tests in this series (29) were airdrops, and a series of high-altitude tests, known as Operation Fishbowl, involved Thor missiles launching warheads at altitudes of up to 248 miles.

While the Operation Castle series took place in 1954. The three largest tests ever carried out by the US were part of Operation Castle.

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