Langley History

John Houbolt, at chalkboard, explains the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous concept
From the frontier of flight...

Humans had dreamed of soaring like birds for centuries, but only since 1903 has science made it possible. In 1917 — just fourteen years after the Wright Brothers made their first historic powered flight — the United States decided to establish the first civilian laboratory dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of flight. 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.

To the moon...

Then came 1958 and the dawn of the space race. Langley started Project Mercury and the Space Task Group, which oversaw the burgeoning U.S. space program, and the original seven astronauts. 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.

Langley simulators 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. 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 beyond

Today, Langley researchers carry on the legacy of their pioneering predecessors. Whether testing space capsule landings, developing supersonic and hypersonic technologies or studying Earth's atmosphere to better understand global climate change, NASA Langley remains on the leading edge.

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  • The Original 7 Project Mercury astronauts
  • L to R -- John Becker, Neil Armstrong, Roy Harris and Dick Whitcomb in NASA Langley Unitary Tunnel
  • Space Task Group Headquarters at NASA Langley in 1961
  • NASA Langley employees form a human '100' outside of the hangar in late 2015
  • Curtiss Bleeker helicopter, 1930
  • A model of the space shuttle in the Langley 22-inch helium tunnel at Mach 20. The flow is made visible by bombardment of an electron beam.
  • Viking lander on the surface of Mars
  • Lunar Landing Simulator at Langley's Lunar Landing Research Facility
  • Pearl I. Young, the first female professional employee of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, in the lab in 1929