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Much of their research helped in the early development of later spaceplanes such as the X-15 and the space shuttle. 36 Its liquid-fuel engine was not powerful enough to enable the little aircraft to take off under its own power, so it had to be towed aloft by another airThe experimental MX-324 was the plane. After the MX-324 was re- United States’ first purpose-built leased by the other plane, test rocket fighter. It never saw service pilot Harry Crosby flew under but did provide a great deal of valuable engineering data.

The astronauts had to depend on the oxygen reserves carried in the lunar module, which they used as a kind of “lifeboat” until once again arriving in Earth’s orbit. For safety’s sake, the first two lunar missions had landed on relatively smooth areas called maria (Latin for “seas”), which are flat, waterless lava plains. Apollo 14 was launched on January 31, 1971. It was to explore the highlands of Fra Mauro, a mission it had inherited from Apollo 13. The area was on the edge of Mare Imbrium, a vast plain of lava created millions of years ago when a huge asteroid punched through the lunar crust.

It would not take a very big rock or crater to upset the lander. And very small rocks and craters were too small to be seen clearly in the Orbiter photos. Looking out the window, Armstrong saw that the landing computer was bringing them down onto a field of boulders. The lander 60 would tip over if it set down on any of them. He quickly switched off the computer and took over control manually. He skimmed over the boulders, with almost no fuel left for landing. But he still could not find a safe spot to land.

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