Since the Aurora is a hypersonic plane, the question arises can the human body survive hypersonic speeds in order to pilot such aircrafts. Knowing
that a human flying at hypersonic speeds close to Mach 10will likely blackout, it would seem impossible, but the history of avaition shows us that
nothing is impossible. Upon researching the possibility, I will conclude that it is possible that with the proper equipment, pressurized suits and
training, the human body and mind can be conditioned to pilot aircrafts at hypersonic speeds up to Mach 7 or 8. The Aurora is reported to fly at
speeds above Mach 5. Again I must stress that the aircraft must be able to offer suitable protection in order for it to be piloted at hypersonic
speeds. The extensive testing of the X-15 proved that pilots could perform under the stresses of hypersonic accelerations, as well as the
weightlessness of space. At this point, I will leave it up to my fellow researchers to prove if the Aurora is capable of providing adequate
protection to the pilots.
A plane flying at hypersonic speeds will in variably affect the human body in numerous ways, this can be proven by statements from the men who have
actually flown at hypersonic speeds before.
In 1947, Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the experimental rocket-propelled X-1 setting the stage for others to follow. Col. John Stapp
was given the the job of finding out what stresses an unprotected human could survive. Starting on a custom built sled, Stapp proved that the human
body could survive forcesof more than 40 Gs. His testing led to many improvements for the safety of pilots. During his twenty-nine rides, Stapp
experienced several retinal hemorrhages, cracked ribs, and two broken wrists
The Track to Survival
Col. Stapp reported: "It felt as though my eyes were being pulled out of my head . . .I lifted my eyelids with my fingers, but I couldn't see a
thing . . ..They put me on a stretcher, and in a minute or two I saw some blue specks . . . In about eight minutes . . . I saw one of the surgeons
wiggle his fingers at me, and I was able to count them. Then I knew my retinas had not been detached, and that I wasn't going to be blind."
In the late 1950's thru the 1960's, the X-15 aircraft was tested almost 200 times by a group of 12 pilots, one of them being Neil Armstrong. Pilot
Scott Crossfield made the first, unpowered glide flight on June 8, 1959.
In April 1961, Russian Major Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel at hypersonic speed, during the world's first piloted orbital flight. Soon
after, in May 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American and second person to achieve hypersonic flight when his capsule reentered the atmosphere at
a speed above Mach 5 at the end of his suborbital flight over the Atlantic Ocean. In June, Air Force Major Robert White flew the X-15 research
airplane at speeds over Mach 5, and broke his own record in November, reaching Mach 6.7.
NASA's William H. Dana was the pilot for the final flight in the program on Oct. 24, 1968. During its research program, the aircraft set unofficial
world speed and altitude records of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7—on Oct. 3, 1967, with Air Force pilot Pete Knight at the controls) and 354,200 feet (on Aug.
22, 1963, with NASA pilot Joseph Walker in the cockpit).
X-15 Hypersonic Research Program;Project Summary
While the testing of the X-15's lead to many discoveries and breakthroughs, study was also done on the human pilots. In the Nasa Dryden X-15 Project
Summary, it is noted that, in the area of physiology, researchers learned that the heart rates of X-15 pilots ranged from 145 to 185 beats per minute
during flight. This greatly exceeded the normal 70 to 80 beats per minute experienced on test missions for other aircraft. The cause of the
difference proved to be the stress X-15 pilots encountered during prelaunch in anticipation of each mission. As it turned out, the higher rates proved
typical for the future physiological behavior of pilot- astronauts.
More intangibly but no less importantly, in the words of John Becker, the X-15 project led to "the acquisition of new piloted aerospace flight 'know
how' by many teams in government and industry. They had to learn to work together, face up to unprecedented problems, develop solutions, and make
this first manned [today, we would say piloted] aerospace project work. These teams were an important national asset in the ensuing space programs."
As the partial list of accomplishments suggests, the X-15 brilliantly achieved its basic purpose of supporting piloted hypersonic flight within and
outside the Earth's atmosphere.
In the Field Manual 30-04.301 Aeromedical Training for Flight Personnel, the Airforce advises that Army aircrew members must have a fundamental, but
thorough, understanding of the accelerative forces encountered during flight and their relationship to the human body. The full document is available
in the following link.
Aeromedical Training for Flight Personnel
Operation of Aircrafts over 25,000 ft and speeds over Mach .75
* i'll continue to add and edit to this post with more info at another time