BRUCE PETERSON - 1933-2006

The following are various obituraries which appeared on the online, following Bruce Peterson's death.


Pilot Who Inspired 'Six Million Dollar Man' Dies
May 2, 2006 8:38 pm US/Pacific


(CBS) LAGUNA NIGUEL Bruce A. Peterson, a NASA pilot and engineer whose crash in an M2-F2 rocket in 1967 inspired the creation of the 1970s television series "The Six Million Dollar Man" has died at 72.Peterson died after a lengthy illness in Laguna Niguel Monday, according to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, based in Edwards.

Peterson retired in 1981 after a 21-year career at Dryden, much of it dedicated to work with the center's legendary research aircraft.

He was best known for his pioneering work with wingless lifting body vehicles such as the M2-F2 that paved the way for the development of a reusable space shuttle.

Peterson went to work at the research center in 1960 as an engineer. He transferred to flight operations two years later and became a pilot on the Rogallo paraglider research vehicle.

The paraglider resembled a tricycle beneath a hang glider and was used to evaluate the use of an inflatable and non-inflatable, flexible wing for the recovery of manned space vehicles.

Peterson made his first flight in the so-called Paresev and was injured when it crashed from a height of about 10 feet during a ground tow flight.

His first question after the impact was, "What happened to the lateral stick forces?"

In 1966, he almost crashed on the maiden flight of the HL-10 lifting body during the three-minute descent to landing when airflow separation rendered the craft un-flyable.

However, he managed to land the vehicle safely. The craft was modified to fix the problem.

The crash of the M2-F2 on May 10, 1967, was his most famous. Although he regained control of the craft after it entered a violent "Dutch roll" motion, the M2-F2 struck the surface of the dry lakebed at an estimated 250 mph before the landing gear was fully down.

It bounced, tumbled and rolled across the lakebed, coming to rest on its back.

Peterson was hospitalized for an extensive time and lost sight in one eye due to a secondary infection while hospitalized.

The event inspired the 1974-78 ABC series, "The Six Million Dollar Man" which starred Lee Majors as test pilot and astronaut who is rebuilt with advanced "bionic" technology after being severely injured in a crash like Peterson's.

Film footage of the M2-F2 accident was used in the show's opening credits. Peterson continued flying until 1971, with more than 6,000 flight hours in nearly 70 types of aircraft.

He continued working as a research project engineer and later assumed responsibility for safety and quality assurance for Dryden retiring in 1981.

Peterson then went to work for Northrop's B-2 division at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale until 1994.

Peterson attended UCLA from 1950 to 1953 and then enlisted as a Naval Aviation cadet. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1958, and was a 1962 graduate of the Air Force Test Pilot School.

NASA honored him in 2002 for his work leading to the first space shuttle landing at Dryden in 1981.

In 2003, he was inducted into the Lancaster Aerospace Walk of Honor. A memorial observance in the Lancaster area is pending.

(© 2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


Ex-NASA test pilot dies at 72

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) - Bruce A. Peterson, a NASA test pilot who flew the wingless "lifting body" vehicles that led to development of the space shuttles and survived a filmed crash that became part of the opening scenes of "The Six Million Dollar Man" TV show, has died. He was 72.

Peterson, who was born in Washburn, N.D., died Monday in Laguna Niguel after a lengthy illness, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center said in a statement Tuesday. The specific cause was not disclosed.

Lifting bodies, conceived in the 1950s, were highly unusual wingless aircraft that derived aerodynamic lift from their shape, unlike conventional planes that get their lift from wings. Starting in the early 1960s, a series of lifting bodies were tested at Edwards Air Force Base, in the Mojave Desert, where Dryden is located.

The prototype was the M2-F1, known as the "flying bathtub," which Peterson flew 42 times on glide flights.

He then piloted its successors, the M2-F2 and the HL-10, which were heavier and powered by rockets.

On Dec. 22, 1966, he came close to disaster on the first flight of the HL-10 when a problem involving airflow across control surfaces made it almost unflyable, but he still managed to land it safely, NASA said. Data from the flight allowed the HL-10 to be successfully modified.

Disaster did strike on May 10, 1967, when Peterson was flying the M2-F2 and it rolled violently.

Peterson regained control but the craft hit Edwards' dry lakebed at an estimated 250 mph before the landing gear fully deployed. The M2-F2 tumbled across the ground before ending up on its back with the badly injured Peterson inside.

He recovered from the crash injuries, but lost sight in one eye due to a secondary infection while hospitalized.

Footage of the crash later was used in the opening credits of the 1970s TV series "The Six Million Dollar Man," NASA said. The show starred Lee Majors as a test pilot horrifically injured in a crash and rebuilt with advanced bionic implants.

Copyright © 2006 Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises


May 6, 2006 - Bruce A. Peterson, 72, inspired TV action show

Bruce A. Peterson, the survivor of a spectacular crash of a wingless research aircraft on a dry lakebed in 1967, got used to being introduced as the real "Six Million Dollar Man."

The former NASA research pilot and engineer, who died Monday at 72 of natural causes at his home in Laguna Niguel, Calif., helped inspire the 1974-78 television series starring Lee Majors as an astronaut and test pilot who is critically injured in a similar crash.Film footage of Peterson's crash was seen in the opening credits of the series. But unlike Majors' Steve Austin character, who gained superhuman powers after parts of his body were replaced with advanced "bionic" technology, Peterson underwent conventional surgery after narrowly escaping death.

He was an experienced research pilot for the NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base at the time of his crash in the M2-F2, a wingless "lifting body" aircraft that led to development of the space shuttles.
Peterson remembered little about the accident.

"About what is seen on the TV screens every week is what I remember," he told The Associated Press in 1975. "That partial footage was taken by the cockpit cameras. I blacked out about the same time the cameras stopped working.

"I was landing, fighting a crosswind which had sprung up, when I saw a (rescue) helicopter in my way. I tried to avoid it, and the landing gear caught in the dry lakebed -- and right there I thought that was it.

"The next thing I vaguely remember is being trapped in the vehicle upside down."

The M2-F2 had been dropped from a B-52 bomber at an altitude of 44,000 feet. But at 7,000 feet, according to an account of the flight, the wingless craft began rolling violently from side to side. Although Peterson damped the motion, the plane had drifted from its approach path.

As a rescue helicopter moved out of his flight path, Peterson fired the landing rockets and lowered the landing gear.
But before the gear was fully down, the M2-F2 hit the ground at an estimated 250 mph, kicking up a cloud of dust as it "bounced, tumbled and rolled" across the dry lakebed before it came to rest on its back.

Peterson suffered a fractured skull, broken teeth and a broken hand and had his forehead literally scraped off.

He was in and out of hospitals for a year and a half undergoing plastic surgery for his face, and he lost his sight in one eye due to a secondary infection while he was hospitalized.

Peterson didn't know how much his medical bills, which were paid for by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, amounted to, but he joked in 1975, "I don't think it cost any $6 million to put me back together."

Peterson was born May 23, 1933, in Washburn, N.D., and grew up in Banning, Calif. After attending the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1950 to 1953, he enlisted as a naval aviation cadet and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1954. Peterson, who earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, joined NASA in 1960 as an engineer. He was transferred to the flight operations branch two years later.

After his crash, Peterson continued to fly for NASA until 1971, having logged more than 6,000 flight hours in nearly 70 types of aircraft during his career.

He then worked as a research project engineerand later was responsible for safety and quality assurance. After retiring in 1981, he worked for Northrop's B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber Division until 1994.
He is survived by his children, David Peterson and Patricia Smith; his brother, Robert; and 10 grandchildren.

Copyright 2006 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved


Bruce Peterson, pilot of NASA 'lifting body' aircraft, dies at 72

Associated Press

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. - Bruce A. Peterson, a NASA test pilot who flew the wingless "lifting body" vehicles that led to development of the space shuttles and survived a filmed crash that became part of the opening scenes of "The Six Million Dollar Man" TV show, has died. He was 72.

Peterson died Monday in Laguna Niguel after a lengthy illness, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center said in a statement Tuesday. The specific cause was not disclosed.

Lifting bodies, conceived in the 1950s, were highly unusual wingless aircraft that derived aerodynamic lift from their shape, unlike conventional planes that get their lift from wings. Starting in the early 1960s, a series of lifting bodies were tested at Edwards Air Force Base, in the Mojave Desert, where Dryden is located.

The prototype was the M2-F1, known as the "flying bathtub," which Peterson flew 42 times on glide flights. He then piloted its successors, the M2-F2 and the HL-10, which were heavier and powered by rockets.

On Dec. 22, 1966, he came close to disaster on the first flight of the HL-10 when a problem involving airflow across control surfaces made it almost unflyable, but he still managed to land it safely, NASA said. Data from the flight allowed the HL-10 to be successfully modified.

Disaster did strike on May 10, 1967, when Peterson was flying the M2-F2 and it rolled violently. Peterson regained control but the craft hit Edwards' dry lakebed at an estimated 250 mph before the landing gear fully deployed. The M2-F2 tumbled across the ground before ending up on its back with the badly injured Peterson inside.

He recovered from the crash injuries, but lost sight in one eye due to a secondary infection while hospitalized.
Footage of the crash later was used in the opening credits of the 1970s TV series "The Six Million Dollar Man," NASA said. The show starred Lee Majors as a test pilot horrifically injured in a crash and rebuilt with advanced bionic implants.

Born May 23, 1933, the Washburn, N.D., native attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and then enlisted as a Naval Aviation cadet in 1953. He was commissioned a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1954. Petersen then received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 1958, and graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School in 1962. He joined NASA in 1960 and in 1962 became a pilot on a paraglider that researched use of an inflatable and non-inflatable, flexible wing for recovering manned spacecraft. The craft, which resembled a tricycle under a hang glider, crashed from a height of 10 feet during Peterson's first flight, a ground tow, and he was injured.

He later flew numerous aircraft as a NASA research pilot, including the F5D-1, F-100, F-104, F-111A, B-52 and the NT-33A Variable Stability Trainer. He also flew general aviation aircraft, helicopters and sailplanes.

In all, he logged more than 6,000 flight hours in nearly 70 types of aircraft.

He was responsible for safety and quality assurance when he retired from Dryden in 1981. He then worked for Northrop Corp.'s B-2 bomber division until 1994.

A memorial observance was pending, NASA said.


`6 Million Dollar Man' B. Peterson
RESEARCH PILOT HELPED INSPIRE TV SHOW

By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times

Bruce A. Peterson, the survivor of a spectacular crash of a wingless research aircraft on a dry lake bed in 1967, got used to being introduced as the real ``Six Million Dollar Man.''

The former NASA research pilot and engineer, who died Monday at 72 of natural causes at his home in Laguna Niguel, helped inspire the 1974-78 television series starring Lee Majors as an astronaut and test pilot who is critically injured in a similar crash.
Film footage of Mr. Peterson's crash was seen in the opening credits of the series.

But unlike Majors' Steve Austin character, who gained superhuman powers after parts of his body were replaced with advanced ``bionic'' technology, Mr. Peterson underwent conventional surgery after narrowly escaping death.

He was an experienced research pilot for the NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base at the time of his crash in the M2-F2, a wingless ``lifting body'' aircraft that led to development of the space shuttles.

Mr. Peterson remembered little about the accident. ``About what is seen on the TV screens every week is what I remember,'' he told the Associated Press in 1975. ``That partial footage was taken by the cockpit cameras. I blacked out about the same time the cameras stopped working.

``I was landing, fighting a crosswind which had sprung up, when I saw a helicopter in my way. I tried to avoid it, and the landing gear caught in the dry lake bed -- and right there I thought that was it. ``The next thing I vaguely remember is being trapped in the vehicle upside down.''

The M2-F2 had been dropped from a B-52 bomber at an altitude of 44,000 feet. But at 7,000 feet, according to an account of the flight, the wingless craft began rolling violently from side to side. Although Mr. Peterson damped the motion, the plane had drifted from its approach path. As a rescue helicopter moved out of his flight path, Mr. Peterson fired the landing rockets and lowered the landing gear. But before the gear was fully down, the M2-F2 hit the ground at an estimated 250 mph, kicking up a cloud of dust as it ``bounced, tumbled and rolled'' across the dry lake bed before it came to rest on its back.

Mr. Peterson suffered a fractured skull, broken teeth and a broken hand, and had his forehead literally scraped off.
He was in and out of hospitals for a year and a half, undergoing plastic surgery for his face, and he lost his sight in one eye because of a secondary infection while he was hospitalized.

Mr. Peterson didn't know how much his medical bills, which were paid for by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, amounted to, but he joked in 1975, ``I don't think it cost any $6 million to put me back together.''

Mr. Peterson was born May 23, 1933, in Washburn, N.D., and grew up in Banning, in Southern California's Inland Empire. After attending the University of California-Los Angeles from 1950 to 1953, he enlisted as a naval aviation cadet and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1954.

Mr. Peterson, who earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, joined NASA in 1960 as an engineer.