NASA Langley Research Center



The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) established Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA



With the research facilities in place, LaRC began aeronautical research



Rocket research was introduced and studied at the facilities



The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics became NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration



Project Mercury astronauts trained at the Langley Research Center



Langley opened the Lunar Landing Research Facility to simulate moon landings for astronauts

In A Galaxy Long Ago and Far Away . . . (with apologies to George Lucas)


Wait, NASA is 100 Years Old?

Those of you old enough to remember, heard the first words from the Moon said by Astronaut Neil Young in 1969. Those of you even a little bit older will remember watching Alan Shephard pilot Freedom 7* for a 15-minute 116-mile ride into space in 1961. But how many of you know the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton VA was established by The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1917? Their initial task was aeronautic research and they studied aircraft/spacecraft safety, performance, and efficiency. While they were responsible for the Project Mercury, once President Kennedy pointed the U.S. towards a moon landing in the early 1960s, the Space Task Group was moved to the Manned Spacecraft Center – now called the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston TX.


How Did Langley Get its Name?

Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906) was an aviation pioneer who, among other tasks, was sent to the U.S. Naval Academy to restore their observatory. He ultimately founded the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. His early work in making a machine fly involved propulsion by rubber bands and miniature steam engines. Rudyard Kipling, described seeing one of Langley’s experiments:

Through Roosevelt I met Professor Langley of the Smithsonian, an old man who had designed a model aeroplane driven—for petrol had not yet arrived—by a miniature flash-boiler engine, a marvel of delicate craftsmanship. It flew on trial over two hundred yards, and drowned itself in the waters of the Potomac, which was cause of great mirth and humour to the Press of his country. Langley took it coolly enough and said to me that, though he would never live till then, I should see the aeroplane established.

The first research at Langley was conducted by four researchers and 11 technicians. It currently employees about 3,500 employees, 85% of whom are older than 40, with an average age of 50; there is now a push to hire younger people.


What Makes Langley Different?

While folks at Langley may not launch rockets, they were pivotal in supersonic and hypersonic flight speeds. In addition, they study earth sciences, pollutants, and climate change. Safety of aircraft is a focus at Langley; they work towards improving all types of aircraft, including lightening protection and wind shear detection. As researchers, they have the advantage of using space as a laboratory – using the space station for experiments, communications, manufacturing, and astronomical observation


Langley and the Space Station

Langley provided the basis of the research for the space shuttle, including 60,000 hours of wind tunnel testing and shuttle landing gear, as well as figuring out how to make the shuttle reusable.


Langley Today

Langley spends a good deal of time on public outreach. Their website provides links to education, NASA TV, videos, and images.


Did You Know?

  • NASA’s roots began in 1915 – just 12 years after the Wright Brothers and two years before the U.S. entered World War I.
  • It was at Rice University Stadium (Houston) in 1962 when John F. Kennedy announced plans to land on the moon.
  • Langley is where the seven original astronauts got their training. Ray Cook, a NASA employee from 1958-1994 said, “They were on campus every day…You saw them at the grocery store…They were exciting guys.”


* Freedom 7 was launched by a Redstone rocket, when asked what he thought about as he sat just before launch, Shepard stated, “The fact that every part of this ship was built by the lowest bidder.”




Listen to JFK’s speech announcing plans to land on the moon at Rice Stadium, 1962

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