Earlier this week, the Air Force announced that the X-51 WaveRider, a wingless scramjet, would make its first hypersonic flight. After learning that the scramjet would reach Mach 6, we couldn't help but reflect on the progress aviation has made in just a century. We've combed the archives to build just one of many amazing snapshots of these incredible 100 years.
On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers embarked on the first sustained, heavier-than-air, man-powered flight aboard the Wright Flyer. Although they made history that day at Kitty Hawk, people were skeptical of aviation technology's potential. An article we published in March 1904 examined what the brothers' feat meant for aviation before concluding that the machines would never develop into commercial carriers. "To say nothing of the danger, the sizes must remain small and the passengers few....navigable balloons and flying machines will constitute a great mechanical triumph for man, but they will not materially upset existing conditions as has sometimes been predicted."
Of course, the progression we've made in aviation was largely a matter of trial and error. For every legendary fighter jet that soared, there was a sausage plane or a zeppelin that went under. Still, as the content our archives will attest, a little imagination and perseverance went a long way.
Click through the gallery for our favorite airplanes, airships, flying boats, and spaceships.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.