Unlocking the Past: The "Joe Walker 50th Anniversary Celebration" unveils time capsule honoring aerospace hero

  • Published
  • By Adam Bowles
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

Local test pilots and school officials honored the legacy of NASA Test Pilot Joe Walker during the "Joe Walker 50th Anniversary Celebration" at Joe Walker Middle School in Lancaster Calif., April 2.

Walker's career in aerospace was marked with two flights to space in the X-15 earning his astronaut wings, along with numerous other achievements. Walker was not only an acclaimed test pilot, but also an Antelope Valley community member coaching little league and actively involved in mentoring the next generation.

Tragically Joe Walker lost his life when his F-104 collided with an XB-70 in mid-air during a test mission. The photo mishap is still used today for lessons learned in the aerospace community. As a pillar in both the aerospace and local community, the legacy of Joe Walker was established with the opening of Joe Walker Middle School in Lancaster, California in 1972, six years after his death. The history of Walker and the presence of the school in the community has had a lasting influence on the aerospace community; alumni from Joe Walker Middle School credit the heritage of the school as having a big influence in their careers.

Jessica Peterson, the 412 Operations Group Technical Director and Instructor Flight Test Engineer, highlights the influence of attending Joe Walker MS has had on her career.

“I grew up knowing the achievements and tragedy of the loss of Joe Walker," she said. "It wasn’t until I attended Joe Walker Middle School that teachers and guest speakers from industry and the Air Force introduced me the amazing opportunities in engineering and our community. I love being able to go to back to local schools to share my experience and inspire the next generation of flight testers to go into engineering.”

A time capsule at Joe Walker Middle School was recently discovered which was placed 50 years ago on school grounds that held hidden footage and artifacts from Walker's legacy and past which was shown at the celebration.  

"I can't believe its been 50 years since the school opened," Jim Walker, son of Joe Walker said.  "I attended the opening at 19.  It's really gratifying to see it all put together and especially to come out of a time capsule after 50 years. It has been a series of special occasions at this school honoring my father."

"The Joe Walker Middle School 50th Anniversary celebration has been a great opportunity to bring the community together and tie the history of aerospace in the Antelope Valley with the future," said Liz Anderson, Joe Walker MS math instructor. “As a test pilot, Joe Walker pushed boundaries and we encourage our students to do the same. We have an acronym posted in our rooms: F.A.I.L. It means First Attempt In Learning. All of Joe Walker’s flights as an experimental test pilot were about learning. I think that is why our school is so exceptional. We have been the first in offering programs to help our students find their passion. Joe Walker was also an active community member. Our school has a rich history of collaboration with our community partners. I have been at Joe Walker for 25 years and I am very honored to be part of this moment of our school’s history.”