Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

By Attila Nagy on at

On the 20th of December, 1939, the second laboratory of the US National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was founded. The facility at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, would later be known as NASA's Ames Research Center after the founding chairman of NACA, Joseph S. Ames – but no one could foresee how iconic Ames would become.

The Ames Research Center was founded to further US research into the aerodynamics of aircraft from WW2, and later it was developed further and further in order to conduct spaceflight research and information technology studies. As NASA remembers:

During its earliest days, the center's 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 its incredible capability with wind tunnels, Ames research expanded into computational fluid dynamics, simulation technology, information technology, air traffic management research, tilt rotorcraft, atmospheric entry systems, human factors and life sciences.

Ames was influential in many ways in establishing what is now known as Silicon Valley. [...] Today, in addition to its continuing research in aeronautics and life sciences, Ames pushes the frontiers of research in lunar science, astrobiology, small low-cost missions, airborne science and the search for planets outside of our own solar system.

Let's celebrate ARC's 75th Anniversary with the following set of gorgeous images selected from the NASA archives.

Dr. Joseph Sweetman Ames at his desk at the NACA headquarters

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


Circa 1940: Lockheed P-38 model in 40x80ft-wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


1942: Free-flight investigation of a 1/4-scale dynamic model of XFV-1 in a 40x80ft-wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


1942: A scale model is being prepared for study in one of the 7x10-foot wind tunnels

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


This June 2, 1943 photograph shows the construction of the Ames full-scale 40x80 foot wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


A Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star sits on the ramp at the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory (1946)

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


An aerial view of the NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field, California, in 1947

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


1948: Test pilot Lawrence A. Clousing climbs into his Lockheed P-80 aircraft for a test flight

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


1948: Testing advanced designs for high-speed aircraft, an engineer makes final calibrations to a model mounted in the 6x6-foot supersonic wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NACA/NASA


1954: A F-86 aircraft being lowered into the 40x80-foot full-scale wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1954: The Republic F84F Thunderjet fighter-bomber involved in flight research at the NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1962: A demonstration of a vertical landing by the NASA Ames Research Center's Bell X-14A Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1963: The "energy flash" when a projectile launched at speeds of up to 17,000 mph impacts a solid surface at the Hypervelocity Ballistic Range. This test is used to simulate what happens when a piece of orbital debris hits a spacecraft in orbit

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1963: A technician mounts a model of the Apollo Launch Escape System (LES) in the Unitary Wind Tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1963: An engineer mounts a model of the M-1 Lifting Body in the throat of the 3.5-foot Hypersonic Tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


Ames test pilot Fred Drinkwater, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and Ames project engineer Stu Rolls in front of the Ames Bell X-14 airplane being flown by Armstrong in February of 1964, five years before Armstrong landed on the moon.

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Lee Jones/NASA


5 Degree Freedom of Motion Simulator with R. Gerdes

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


Schlieren image of an Apollo Command Module and Launch Escape System model being tested in the Ames 11-foot wind tunnel at Mach 1.20 and an angle of attack of 10.5 degrees

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


1965: The M2-F2 lifting body aircraft is mounted in the full-scale wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


M-2 Lifting Body being tested in the atmospheric entry simulator to determine the areas of most intense heat

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Dino Ponseggi/NASA


YF-12 inlet airframe interaction test in the 8X7-foot supersonic wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


1977: Hubert Vykukal (designer) demonstrates the mobility of the hard-suit AX-3 Space Suit design

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Lee Jones/NASA Ames Research Center


Circa 1978: McDonnell Douglas YAV-8B Harrier V/STOL Systems Research Aircraft hovering

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


Aerial View of the main buildings of NASA Ames Research Center, in 1982

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


The Vestibular Research Facility (VRF) centrifuge in Building N-242 (1985)

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Eric James/NASA


A 1/3 scale model of the space shuttle preparing for tests in the 40x80-foot test section

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


The space shuttle acoustics model in the 11-foot wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


1987: The largest wind tunnel in the World: the 80x120-foot wind tunnel drive fans

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Tom Trower/NASA Ames Research Center


1989: The AH-64 Apache helicopter simulator with Integrated Helmet & Display Sighting System (IHADSS)

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


The Puma Robotic Sensor Arm, for use in Virtual Reality development and studies (1990)

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Dominic Hart/NASA


1990: The EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) Exercise Device for evaluation and effectiveness of weightlessness on astronauts during long duration spaceflights

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Tom Trower/NASA


1990: The 40x80-foot Data Acquisition System

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1990: Mapping out the neural networks of the inner ear as part of Dr. Murial Ross's study of the effects of space travel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Tom Trower/NASA


The Cray Y 190A Supercomputer (1990)

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


1991: The F-18 in the 80x120-foot wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1995: NASA's Virtual Airport Tower, a full-scale, highly sophisticated simulation facility that emulates Level 5 air traffic control towers and the busiest airports

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA


1995: Ames Robotics Laboratory, T-1 Robot in the "sandbox"

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


1998: Vertical Motion Simulator cab in motion

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA Ames Research Center


The parachute for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) passed flight-qualification after testing in March and April 2009 inside the world's largest wind tunnel at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: NASA/Ames Research Center/JPL


2012: A model for the Experimental Evaluation Concept Boom and Performance Exploratory Test is tested in the NASA Ames 11x11-foot transonic wind tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Eric James/NASA Ames Research Center


2012: The Capsule Parachute Assembly System (CPAS) for Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) class spacecraft undergoes wake deficit wind tunnel testing with pressure-sensitive paint. The testing occurred in the Ames Research Center's 11x11-foot Transonic Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel

Happy Birthday Ames! Awesome Photos From 75 Years of Aerospace Research

Photo: Dominic Hart/NASA Ames Research Center