Editor’s Note: This article has been amended to correct an inaccuracy on how Powers’s U-2 was shot down.

The United States is a force to be reckoned with. Go to some of the most remote places in the world, unfurl the flag, and they know what country it represents. 

America’s ingenuity is astounding. As a country of 300 million people, we are now relatively few compared to the billions in China and India. But we continue to produce and foster the world’s most brilliant minds as we have for hundreds of years, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. Because no matter how much countries like China steal intellectual property, they will always be one step behind while we are reinventing the future. 

There are so many technologies that display this spirit, but there is one to rule them all.  

It is not the iPhone, radio, or light bulbs. It’s the U-2 spy plane. 

A spy plane from the cold war? Absolutely. And here’s why.

In 1953 the U.S. military needed a better way to conduct aerial surveillance on the Soviets. In response, a seemingly impossible idea started to circulate around the military community — a plane that could fly so high it would be untouchable. 

Under the codename “Bald Eagle,” the task to make it a reality was contracted out to a few cutting-edge aerospace corporations. But, when Lockheed heard it wasn’t among the corporations chosen, it decided to nevertheless create it first.