Joe Engle has the unique honor of having flown the X-15 and the Space Shuttle, bringing lifting – reentry vehicles full circle. Engle flew the X-15 for 24 months from 7 October 1963 until 14 October 1965, making 16 flights with the XLR99 engine. Engle reached Mach 5.71, a maximum speed of 3,888 mph, and an altitude of 280,600 feet.

Joe Henry Engle was born on 26 August 1932 in Abilene, Kansas, and graduated from the University of Kansas at Lawrence with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955. After graduation he worked at Cessna Aircraft as a flight-test engineer before being commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program in 1956. Engle earned his pilot wings in 1958 and flew F-100s for the 474th Fighter Squadron (Day) and later the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB, California.

Engle graduated from the Test Pilot School in 1962 and attended the ARPS at Edwards for training as a military astronaut. He graduated from the ARPS in 1963 and became a project pilot for the X – 15 program in June 1963. Engle received an Air Force astronaut rating for making a flight above 50 miles in the X-15.-113

In 1966, at the age of 32 years, Engle became the youngest person selected to become an astronaut. First assigned to the Apollo program, he served on the support crew for Apollo X and then as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo XIV. In 1977 he was commander of one of two crews that conducted the approach and landing tests with the Space Shuttle Enterprise. In November 1981 he commanded the second flight (STS-2) of the Columbia and manually flew the reentry, performing 29 flight-test maneuvers from Mach 25 through landing rollout. This was the first (and so far only) time a pilot has flown a winged aerospace vehicle from orbit through landing. He accumulated the last of his 224.5 hours in space when he commanded Discovery during mission 51-I (STS-27) in August 1985.

Engle has flown more than 180 different types of aircraft and logged nearly 14,000 flight hours. Among his many honors, Engle has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (1964), the AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award for Flight Research (1966), the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and Space Flight Medal, and the Harmon International, Robert J. Collier, Lawrence Sperry, Iven C. Kincheloe, Robert H. Goddard, and Thomas D. White aviation and space trophies. In 1992 he was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor.-114