History of NASA Ames

Learn more about the history of NASA Ames

NASA Ames Research Center today is a leader in nanotechnology, information technology, fundamental space biology, biotechnology, thermal protection systems, and human factors research. The Center was established in 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and was named for the chair of the NACA, Joseph S. Ames. It was located at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, now at the heart of Silicon Valley. The Laboratory was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center with the formation of NASA in 1958.

During its earliest days, Ames researchers broke new ground in all flight regimes (the subsonic, transonic, supersonic, and hypersonic) through construction of increasingly sophisticated wind tunnels, research aircraft, and methods of theoretical aerodynamics. Building upon the world's greatest collection of wind tunnels, Ames research expanded into computational fluid dynamics, simulation technology, information technology, air traffic management research, tilt rotorcraft, and life sciences. Some of Ames' greatest contributions to America's aeronautics and space program include the swept-back wing concept that is used on all high-speed aircraft today; the blunt body concept, which is used on every spacecraft to prevent burning upon planetary entry; the management of the Pioneer planetary spacecraft, which was the first human-made object to leave the solar system; the Viking Life Detection experiment spacecraft, which was the first spacecraft to perform experiments on another planet; and the Lunar Prospector mission, which discovered water at the poles of the Moon.

Today, NASA Ames is developing into a world-class research and development campus with partners from academia, industry, and non-profit corporations. The goal is a highly collaborative environment for innovative research and educational facilities to train the future workforce.

NASA Ames History Office
The NASA Ames History Office explores ways to make the center's past relevant to its future. Staffed by historians and archivists, the History Office supports research, writing and oral history projects, and helps with the processing of documents and artifacts.

NASA Ames History Office

Moffett Field History

In 1933, the United States Government commissioned Sunnyvale Naval Air Station which was later renamed NAS Moffett Field.
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Page Last Updated: December 23rd, 2014
Page Editor: Jessica Culler