You know, before astronauts became passengers, there were some pretty hardcore guys flying around with rockets strapped to their butts.
It all seems so effortless now. American astronauts have been to the moon and back so many times we’ve lost interest. But back in the day, brave and clever men with nothing but a crewcut, a slide rule, and jet fuel let is all hang out, didn’t they? Eight of these X-15 pilots were declared astronauts without even applying for the job. They flew so fast, and so high, that they were informed that they qualified for astronaut status after they landed. They probably shrugged and had a cigarette.