NASA doesn’t just perform amazing science — it also creates incredible art, photography, sound recordings and videos to interpret its discoveries and create an archive of its work. Unfortunately, some of those resources are locked away on old, poorly designed websites.
Right now, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center is working on fixing that, moving hundreds of videos over to YouTube. It has uploaded almost 300 videos in just the past couple of months — the oldest of which date back to the 1940s — and word has it the team plans to add more than 200 additional clips. Many of the videos lack audio, but they’re still an incredible glimpse into the agency’s history.
We heard NASA likes cheesy unveiling ceremonies, so we thought we’d unveil five of our favorite videos from the new uploads.
1. X-1 test flight
The earliest videos in the collection star the X-1, the first piloted aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. Filmed in 1947, this video shows one of the three X-1 aircraft attached to the bottom of an airplane, then in flight after its launch. That same year, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in an X-1. Later videos show X-1s being launched from bombers. In some of the videos, you’ll see planes labeled NACA, short for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA, created in 1958.
2. XB-70A takeoff
If you’ve always dreamed of flying a plane, this cockpit footage from 1965 will put you in the pilot’s seat — of an XB-70A, the prototype for a bomber nicknamed the Valkyrie, production of which was cancelled by President John F. Kennedy’s administration. When the plane landed, three parachutes opened off its tail to help slow it down (it could go as fast as three times the speed of sound).
3. STS-1: The first space shuttle mission
Relive the glory days of the space shuttle with this video of the very first mission in the series, launched in 1981. There’s also footage of shuttles aboard planes that were used to move them around between missions and of shuttle evacuation drills practiced in case of emergency.
4. The first Hyper-X launch
In the early 2000s, NASA went after airplane-style flights with hypersonic speeds, five times the speed of sound, with its Hyper-X program. The very first flight, shown here, didn’t cut it, but by 2004 the program’s planes were hitting more than nine times the speed of sound. (The newly uploaded footage will also let you imagine you’re on board a hypersonic, rocket-powered aircraft dropped from a bomber, if you need a bit of a boost today.)
The archived videos also cover some of the less stereotypical work NASA does. Take the video below of a solar-powered plane photographing coffee fields in Hawaii to help owners decide when to harvest the beans. There’s also some great footage of life here on Earth, thanks to a 2004 trip a science jet took to Costa Rica.
And a bonus pick you won’t want to miss
Don’t you want to watch Buzz Aldrin, second man to walk on the moon, throw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game? Of course you do.