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In a high-altitude partial pressure suit, Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe Jr. and an F-104.

Memorial to "The First Spaceman"

Field review by the editors.

Cassopolis, Michigan

Iven Carl "Kinch" Kincheloe Jr. was christened "America's No. 1 Spaceman" when he flew a Bell X-2 rocket plane to the edge of outer space on September 7, 1956 -- long before the cosmonauts and astronauts actually reached space in the early 1960s. He could have been an astronaut himself -- he was selected for the Air Force's pre-NASA program to put a man in space -- but died in an F-104 plane crash on July 26, 1958.

Kinch is buried in Virginia, beneath an unexciting tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery. His hometown in Michigan erected a much more interesting monument in his honor on November 22, 1963 -- unfortunately the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated -- a rock with his picture painted on it, a bronze plaque to "The First Spaceman," and an angled obelisk with a tiny stainless steel X-2 pointed upward, toward heaven. The monument was designed by architect William Henry Dacey, and restored and rededicated in 2006, on the 50th anniversary of Kinch's edge-of-space flight.

Memorial to "The First Spaceman"

MI-60, Cassopolis, MI
Two miles east of downtown Cassopolis, on the south side of MI-60. Look for the brown Kicheloe Memorial Park sign.
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