I recently heard a very interesting talk from someone who saw the Dream Chaser drop test at Edwards Air Force Base. The person described the landing, which went awry due to the failure of the left landing gear, as being looking similar to the crash in the opening credits for “The Six Million Dollar Man” television show.
This explains why the video that Sierra Nevada Corporation released ends abruptly just at touchdown. A crash like that is not exactly what you want everyone to see when you’re competing for billions of government dollars.
The footage for the TV show was taken from the crash of the M2-F2 lifting body research aircraft at Edwards in 1967. Test pilot Bruce Peterson battled what is known as a Dutch roll — lateral instability where the vehicle rocked back and forth — after being released from the B-52 mother ship. He came out of it off course and at low altitude. Distracted by a rescue helicopter hovering up ahead, he was unable to complete the landing flare and fully extend the gear before the M2-F2 hit the lake bed.
Peterson was badly injured in the accident and lost an eye due to a subsequent infection, but he later returned to flight status. Unlike so many of his fellow test pilots, he died at home decades later.
The vehicle was rebuilt with a center fin and renamed the M2-F3. It flew successfully many times, and it now hangs in a place of honor inside the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The TV show embellished the circumstances of the crash for dramatic purposes. Steve Austin lost two legs, and arm and an eye — all replaced with bionic parts. And just like so other high-profile celebrity Apollo moon walkers before him, Austin became a special agent for the OSI, the only secret government organization in the world that nobody’s ever heard of.