Robert M. White, who made history with a 1962 test flight into space, dies at 85

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Among significant milestones recorded by White, a retired Air Force major general and decorated war veteran, was taking a rocket-powered X-15 plane almost 60 miles into space and then landing it.

Robert M. White was a 38-year-old U.S. Air Force major and record-setting test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in 1962 when he joined the elite ranks of America's four astronauts.

But Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, Virgil Grissom, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter went into space seated atop ballistic missiles and returned in capsules that parachuted onto the ocean.

White did it as the pilot of a rocket-powered X-15 research airplane, flying nearly 60 miles above the Earth's surface and completing a conventional landing on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base.

His out-of-this-world adventure earned him the distinction of being the first pilot to earn a winged astronaut rating by piloting an airplane in space.

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