Edwards Air Force Base

Have I said how cool this place is?  Just outside the main checkpoint at the Northern entrance sits a B-52.  This is a real B-52, flown by NASA and now retired.  It was used to lift several prototype aircraft into the air for launch including the X-15 and the X-43a’scram-jet’.  The unofficial history of this aircraft can be found here.

Once you get through the parking lot and enter the NASA Dryden facility, you park your car in the centrally located parking lot.  Surrounding this lot is a series of aircraft (some real, some mock-ups).  The coolest plane, by far, is the SR71 Blackbird, but they are all awesome, especially since you can walk right up to them.  Here are a few pictures I took…

  This is the B-52 of which I wrote.  It’s hard to imagine how big this aircraft is until you are standing right next to it.  In front of the aircraft is a parking lot.  You can get out of your car and walk right up to the aircraft.
As most of you know, if the Shuttle is not able to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its backup landing site is right where we’re holding the Games, on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base.  If the Shuttle has to land here, it is mounted on a specially modified Boeing 747, pictured here, for the trip back to Kennedy.  
  When they put the Shuttle on the 747, a special shroud, pictured, is attached to it to help its airworthiness.  This appears to be made out of wood, not metal, something which surprised me quite a bit.
A nose-on view of the SR-71. This really is the sexiest aircraft ever built (IMHO).  
  A side view of the same SR-71.

Incidentally, there is a Shuttle launch scheduled for July 11th. Lets hope nothing is delayed and they can land fine in Florida – otherwise it might affect the Games.

(You can click on any of these picture thumbnails for a larger version)

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