Robert A. Rushworth, a retired Air Force major general who won his astronaut wings as a test pilot for the exploratory X-15 fixed-wing plane, has died. He was 68.
Rushworth died at his home in Camarillo of a heart attack March 17, the Air Force Assn. announced Thursday. The association had given him its Citation of Honor in 1966.
The lifelong pilot flew a record 34 test flights in the rocket aircraft. In preparation for space launches, the airplane explored such unknowns as hypersonic aerodynamics and the dangers of heat on re-entering the atmosphere.
Rushworth earned his astronaut rating in 1963 by flying the craft higher than 50 miles--he reached 54--and he also flew it more than six times the speed of sound. He earned the Legion of Merit for his accomplishments in pioneering spaceflights, and in 1990 he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.
Born Oct. 9, 1924, in Madison, Mn., Rushworth interrupted his education to enlist as a pilot in World War II. He flew C-47 transports over the legendary "Hump" across the Himalayas from India to Shanghai to supply China for its fight against the Japanese.
After the war, Rushworth earned a bachelor's degree in engineering at the University of Maine in 1951--just in time to be reactivated for the Korean War.
Included in his career tally of 6,500 flying hours in more than 50 aircraft were 189 combat missions in the F-4 Phantom II in Vietnam.
He was promoted Aug. 1, 1975, to major general and retired in 1981 as vice commander of the Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Rushworth is survived by a daughter, Cheri Cox, of Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, and two grandchildren.
Services are scheduled at 10 a.m. Monday at Edwards Air Force Base Chapel 1. Burial will be Friday in Madison, Me.