NASA research pilot John A. Manke is seen here in front of the M2-F3 lifting body.
Manke was hired by NASA on May 25, 1962, as a flight research engineer. He was later assigned to the pilot’s office and flew various support aircraft including the F-104, F-5D, F-111 and C-47. The M2-F3 reached a top speed of l,064 mph (Mach 1.6). Highest altitude reached by the vehicle was 7l,500 feet on December 21, 1972, the date of its last flight with Manke at the controls. The information the lifting body program generated contributed to the data base that led to development of the Space Shuttle program. NASA donated the M2-F3 vehicle to the Smithsonian Institution in December 1973 and it currently hangs in the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington, DC.
The Proteus is a unique aircraft designed as a high-altitude, long-duration telecommunications relay platform, with potential for use on atmospheric sampling and Earth monitoring science missions as well.