Access Type

Online access to this book is only available to eligible users.



Download Full Text (5.2 MB)


Most lifting bodies, or “flying bathtubs” as they were called, were so ugly only an engineer could love them, and yet, what an elegant way to keep wings from burning off in supersonic flight between earth and orbit. Working in their spare time (because they couldn’t initially get official permission), Dale Reed and his team of engineers demonstrated the potential of the design that led to the Space Shuttle.

Wingless Flight takes us behind the scenes with just the right blend of technical information and fascinating detail (the crash of M2-F2 found new life as the opening credit for TV’s “The Six Million Dollar Man”). The flying bathtub, itself, is finding new life as the proposed escape-pod for the Space Station.

R. Dale Reed retired from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in 1985 but still works with NASA as a contract engineer. He has authored numerous articles and technical reports, managed nineteen NASA programs, including the flight test of a prototype Mars airplane, and acquired four patents.

"An excellent study. . . . A particularly rewarding aspect of this book is the clarity of the description of the sequential testing which has made the United States the world leader in space."—Air Power History

"Reed carefully blends technical detail into this in-depth account of the entire NASA/USAF lifting-body program."—Space Times

"Presents an in-depth account of the entire NASA/Air Force lifting-body program written by the engineer who initiated it."—Aviation History

"Provides a human and insightful story of an unusual and very important aerospace technology that has shaped and will continue to shape our future in space."—Technology and Culture

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






NASA, History of NASA, Lifting bodies, Wingless bodies


History of Science, Technology, and Medicine


Foreword by Chuck Yeager

Wingless Flight: The Lifting Body Story
Read Sample Off-campus Download for UK only

Consortium members may access while on their campus.