While the test flights were carried out via radio control, the craft did have space for a pilot.'Three successful flights of the I2000 inflatable wing aircraft occurred,' Nasa's description in the You Tube video reads.'As the I2000 separated from the carrier aircraft, its inflatable wings 'popped-out,' deploying rapidly via an on-board nitrogen bottle.' Nasa notes that the unpowered craft glided down to a smooth landing under complete control.The Mini-Sniffer represents one of the earliest attempts by Nasa to monitor the earth's atmosphere at high altitudes.Three of the machines were built, with the craft tipped to one day travel to Mars for atmospheric research flights over the red planet.'The original Mini-Sniffer was propelled by a small air-breathing engine, while a later version used a non-air breathing hydrazine engine for higher altitude capabilities,' Nasa wrote in the video's description.'A large propeller was also employed because of its effectiveness in the thin upper atmosphere.'The space shuttle Atlantis appears in this video atop Nasa's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) during an early morning takeoff from Edward Air Force Base in Southern California's Mojave Desert.The light and inexpensive craft was designed to test aircraft body shape and learn how more lift could be generated through aerodynamics This 1984 footage shows a Boeing 720 being crash landed by Nasa researchers on purpose, with the craft seen exploding into a ball of flames.The video captured a unique flight experiment to test the impact of a Boeing 720 aircraft using standard fuel with an additive designed to suppress fire.
The plane was also set up for a host of other impact-survivability experiments, including new seat designs, flight data recorders, galley and stowage-bin attachments, cabin fire-proof materials, and burn-resistant windows.
It will reach an orbit within four million miles (6.5 million km) of the sun and will measure activity at its outer surface, known as the 'corona'.
The craft will collect vital information about the life of stars and their weather events, and will help scientists improve how we predict dangerous solar flares.
Other Nasa machines have been less successful, and often foray into the outright bizarre - such as a plane with inflatable wings, or a glider launched via helicopter.
All of Nasa's famous craft went through rigorous flight tests during development, and the agency is releasing hundreds of historic research videos of its machines being put through their paces.