The Breaking of the Sound Barrier
Report by 9 year old
"Mach .91, mach .92, mach.93, mach.94, mach.95, mach .97, mach .98, mach .99....BOOM! Mach 1." This is what you might have heard on the Mojave Desert, Murock Dry Ladebed in California, now Edwards Air Force Base, when Captian Chuck E. Yeager poked a "hole" in the sky and became the first man to break the sound barrier successfully. People described the sound barrier as a "physical" barrier because no one had come to the incredible speed of approximately 750 miles per hour at sea level on a 60 degree day.
The speed of sound is expressed in mach numbers because it varies with height and temperature.
Captain Yeager's mach meter, a device used to tell a jet's mach speed, jumped off the scale at mach 1.08 at an altitude of 43,000 feet, on October 14, 1947.
The breaking of the sound barrier was vitally important at this time. During World War II many pilots had been killed because their planes broke apart when they dove from a great altitude causing them to approach the sound barrier making a searing amount of heat on the plane forcing it to peices.
Scientists went hard to work planning and experimenting. They found that they could use a different kind of metal that would not bend, break , or melt so easily. Finally they came up with an aircraft called the X-1. The X stands for experimental.
The X-1's body was shaped like a .50 caliber bullet with short wings to decrease drag.
The pilot, Captain Chuck E. Yeager, was a war ace who had shot down 5 German enemy aircraft in one day.
A B-29 carried the Bell X-1 and her pilot to an altitude of 21,000 feet. When dropped the fuel of the X-1 ignited after falling to an altitude of about 20,000 feet. The X-1 then shot up to an altitude of 43,000 feet and broke through the sound barrier.
The breaking of the sound barrier took a lot of work, the X-1 had to be test flown fifty-three times before it actually broke the sound barrier. Because of National security, the public was not notified of this event until a year later, in 1948.
The top jet speed today is a little over mach 4. Things have come a long way since the X-1 and things are yet to come. The X-1 now lives at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D. C. if you want to visit it.
"The X-1 marked the end of the first great period of the air age, and the beginning of the second. In a few moments the subsonic period became history and the supersonic period was born."
--General Hoyt Vandenburg
Dryden Flight Research Center
Image of the United States Postal Service stamp issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary
National Air and Space Museum
A Chuck Yeager Site
Boeing had a site with great information, but the last time I tried to access it, it was gone