Monday, December 17, 2012
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright took to the air in their Wright Flyer near the Kill Devil Hills south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They made two flights each in the first successful powered aircraft, from level ground into a freezing headwind gusting to 27 miles per hour. The first flight, by Orville, spanned 120 feet in 12 seconds, at a speed of only 6.8 miles per hour (pictured, in a famous photograph). The Wright brothers focused on developing reliable pilot control as the way to solve "the flying problem," not on a powerful engine. Their first U.S. patent did not claim invention of a flying machine, but a system of aerodynamic control that manipulated a flying machine's surfaces. A piece of fabric and wood from the Wright Flyer was taken to the Moon’s surface by Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, in July 1969.