The scientific tourist #234 — Dynasoar

Seen at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida — it’s a model of the Dinosaur Dynasoar space plane:


Likely the most poorly-named program ever conceived, the Dynasoar (for dynamic soaring) was an early attempt at making a reusable manned space plane — essentially a mini-shuttle, and in some sense a follow-on to the X-15 experimental aircraft. First proposed in 1957, the U. S. Air Force saw this single-seat craft as their way into space — and assigned it a dizzying future array of tasks. Variants were discussed for reconnaissance, long-range weapons delivery, and even in-orbit warfare (the Soviets were planning similar vehicles at the time, so this was hardly unilateral thinking).

Ultimately, the program wound down in 1963, victim of an unclear mission, escalating costs, and a hostile political environment — just months away from completion of the first flight-worthy vehicle. In its early days, Dynasoar was hobbled by the Eisenhower administration’s desire to avoid military competition with NASA’s mission of manned orbital flight. Once the Kennedy administration was in place, Defense Secretary McNamara ultimately cancelled Dynasoar in favor of military use of the Gemini spacecraft that NASA was then developing (although it too would soon be cancelled).

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