Joe H. Engle

Major General Joe H. Engle
USAF /Air National Guard, Ret.
NASA Astronaut Ret.

Born on August 26, 1932 in Dickinson County, Kansas
BS degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1956

About the Man

Joe received his commission through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Kansas and entered USAF flying school in March 1956.

General Engle served with the 474th Fighter Day Squadron (later re-designated the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron) flying F-100’s at George AFB, CA. In 1960 he was selected for the USAF Test Pilot School and the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School (commanded by then Col. Chuck Yeager) at Edwards AFB, CA. Upon graduation he was assigned to the Fighter Test Branch at Edwards AFB where he flew numerous and varied flight tests on century series fighters. In 1963 Captain Engle was assigned as one of two Air Force test pilots to fly the X-15 Research Rocket aircraft. On 29 June 1965 he flew the X-15 to an altitude of 280,600 feet, and became the youngest pilot ever to qualify as an astronaut. Three of his sixteen flights in the X-15 exceeded the 50-mile (264,000 feet) altitude required for astronaut rating.

In March 1966, NASA selected Joe Engle as one of 19 pilots for space missions. Engle was to fly to. and walk on the moon on Apollo 17, until budget cuts canceled the last 3 planned Apollo flights.

Joe Engle flew 16 flights in USAF/NASA X-15. He also flew on Space Shuttle approach and landing tests 2 and 4

About the Spaceflights


November 12 - November 14, 1981

General Engle commanded the second orbital test flight of the Space Shuttle “Columbia”, launched from Kennedy Space Center, FL. On this flight he became the first and only pilot to manually fly an aerospace vehicle from Mach 25 to landing.

Flight Duration: Two days, Six hours, 13 minutes, 12 seconds

The general served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight at NASA Headquarters from March to December 1982. He retained his flight astronaut status and returned to Johnson Space Center in January 1983.


August 27 - September 3, 1985

General Engle was Commander of Space Shuttle "Discovery" on flight 51-I which launched from Kennedy Space Center on 27 Aug 1985. The crew deployed three communications satellites, and performed a successful on-orbit rendezvous and manual repair of the disabled SYNCOM communications satellite.

Three communications satellites deployed.

Duration: 7 days, 2 hours, 17 minutes, 42 seconds.

Engle's cumulative hours of space flight are more than 224. General Engle has flown over 185 different types of aircraft including 38 different fighter and attack aircraft. He has logged more than 14,700 flight hours – 9,900 in jets and over 224 hours in space.

In his last active duty military assignment, General Engle was the Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander in Chief, United States Space Command and North American Air Defense Command, with Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, CO. As “Test Pilot Emeritus” of the USAF Test Pilot School, he remains active in flying, including current jet fighter aircraft, and is also an avid outdoor sportsman and wildlife enthusiast.

Click on the patches to read about Joe Engle's historic spaceflights in more detail.