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Kathy Barnstorff
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
757-864-9886/344-8511 (mobile)

 
10.24.07
 
RELEASE : 07-053
 
 
NASA Langley Celebrates 90 Years of Aerospace Innovation
 
 
HAMPTON, Va. – NASA's Langley Research Center is turning 90 and this weekend the public is invited to help celebrate.

The Hampton laboratory is opening its gates Saturday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to share its past, present and future role in aerospace technology development with the Hampton Roads community. NASA Langley was established in 1917 as the country's first civilian aeronautics laboratory.

"No place has played a larger role in the history of American flight technology or flight technology in general than Langley Research Center," commented Tom Crouch, noted aviation historian at the Smithsonian Institution. "It's hard to think of an airliner in the air today that doesn't have Langley's signature on it. It's hard to think of a military airplane flying today that Langley wasn't involved with in one way or another."

Langley research established many of the basic building blocks of aeronautics, changed the shape of aircraft and helped allow jets to fly at supersonic speeds. Aviation pioneers including Orville Wright, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes came to Langley.

Then came 1958 and the dawn of the space race. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which had established Langley, became NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The newly named Langley Research Center added space exploration to its repertoire.

Langley started Project Mercury and the Space Task Group, which oversaw the burgeoning U.S. space program, and the original seven astronauts. "They were on campus every day. Every day you saw them on the flight line. You saw them in the grocery store," said Ray Hook, a NASA employee from 1958-1994. "They were exciting guys. They were highly selected for their mental and physical capabilities."

Even after the Space Task Group moved to Houston Langley continued to use its decades of scientific know-how to help send Americans into space and eventually to the moon. Simulators designed and operated at Langley helped astronauts learn how to rendezvous and dock in space and land on the moon. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was one of the dozens of astronauts who trained at Langley.

NASA Langley helped the United States rocket past the moon and onto Mars. It managed the Viking project, which landed two spacecraft on Mars … the first to successfully soft land on the surface of another planet. The Viking project provided a catalog of more than 50,000 images from the Martian surface as well as from orbit. The Viking data remains a valuable scientific resource for the study of Mars.

When the U.S. decided to develop a reusable spacecraft NASA turned once again to Langley. Researchers in Hampton put space shuttle designs through thousands of hours of wind tunnel testing. And now Langley is working on designs for the next generation of space vehicles that will return astronauts to the moon, then send them onto Mars and beyond.

To this day NASA Langley researchers carry on the legacy of their pioneering predecessors. Whether its testing airbags for space capsule landings, developing technologies to allow aircraft to fly at supersonic and hypersonic speeds or studying Earth's atmosphere to better understand global climate change … NASA Langley remains on the leading edge as it has since 1917.

To see some of the Langley facilities that are advancing aerospace innovation, including a space capsule mock-up construction area, a wind tunnel, flight simulators, inflatable lunar habitat, a hangar and its aircraft, and more, check out the NASA Langley Open House Saturday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information and directions, please check the Internet at: