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In photos: NASA’s aeronautical research centre as it was in the 1920s

Langley Research Center was founded in 1917 and later became famous as the site where the first moon landing was planned.

NASA’S LANGLEY RESEARCH Center in Hampton, Virginia is probably best known today for being the site where the Apollo moon landing mission was planned and designed. The facility was founded under the US federal agency the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (or NACA) in 1917 as America’s first civilian laboratory for studying developments in flight.

Efforts to establish research projects at the centre were disrupted by the First World War, and the facility wasn’t officially dedicated until July 1920. Its first wind tunnel, based on an earlier British design, became operational that summer. The Langley tunnel became the first in the world to use the principle of variable density air pressure to test scale model aircraft, according to NASA historians.

Here are some of the images taken by Langley researchers in the 1920s:

In photos: NASA’s aeronautical research centre as it was in the 1920s
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  • Variable Density Tunnel

    1922: In February 1922, the Variable Density Tunnel arrived for installation at Langley from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock company. (NASA Archives)
  • Test Flight

    1921: A biplane suspends a model wing during a test flight in June 1921. (NASA Archives)
  • Testing

    1920: Test pilot Thomas Carroll and engineer John W Gus Crowley Jr on board for research at Langley. (NASA Archives)
  • Patternmakers

    1922: Workmen in the patternmaking section manufacturing a wing skeleton for a Thomas-More MB-3 plane, intended for studies on pressure distribution in flight. (NASA Archives)
  • Making Cowlings

    Metal workers making engine cowlings which smoothed airflow over the engine to reduce drag, increasing speed and fuel efficiency. (NASA Archives)
  • Charles Lindberg

    Record-setting pilot Charles Lindberg sits up front while the then-head of Langley's propeller research tunnel division Fred E Weick takes a back seat. (NASA Archives)
  • Huck Starter For Airplanes

    1926: A modified Model T Ford with Huck starter attached to a Vought VE-7 plane at Langley in October 1926. (NASA Archives)
  • Variable Density Wind Tunnel

    NACA staff members Eastman Jacobs, Shorty Defoe, Malvern Powell and Harold Turner carry out tests on airfoils in the Variable Density Tunnel on 15 March 1929. (Image: NASA archives)
  • Sperry M-1 Messenger

    1927: A Langley researcher gazes into the middle distance in a Sperry M-1 Messenger, which was the first full-scale plane tested in Langley's propeller research tunnel. (NASA Archives)

In pictures: the Wright Brothers’ album of early flying machines >

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