Cruising along in a passenger plane, it’s easy to assume that aircraft have always looked this way. That is, until you learn about Nasa’s ‘X-planes’ – a series of experimental aircraft launched in the 1940s. Many were so hi-tech, they make you wonder why modern aeroplanes aren’t more exotic. Planes without wings. Planes without tails. Planes without pilots. Planes which turn 180 degrees in the sky. Jet propulsion. For the most ambitious aeronautical program ever, it seemed nothing was off the table.
Now the X-planes are back: Nasa has unveiled a new 10-year experimental programme, aimed at developing aircraft which are quieter, greener, and much, much faster. Among their plans is a supersonic jet so tranquil, its supersonic boom has been likened to the sound of a neighbour forcefully shutting their car door (pictured, above). But that’s just the beginning.
You might wonder what any of this has to do with Nasa’s remit in space exploration. In fact, Nasa was borne out of Naca, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which was founded in the early 20th Century.