(HOUSTON) — NASA is celebrating the 100th birthday of the United States’ original aeronautics program on Tuesday with photos showing what the dream of flight looked like a century ago.
Founded on March 3, 1915, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, called NACA, focused on innovation in aeronautics, including the creation of the retractable landing gear, jet engine compressors and turbines, among other technologies.
The mission, according to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, was to “supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution.”
Starting with a small budget and no payroll, the committee grew into a powerhouse around World War II, developing cutting edge aeronautics technology that helped lead American troops to victory overseas.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that the reality of space travel came into the picture. All 7,500 NACA employees became part of the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or what we commonly call NASA.
The influence of NACA can be seen today in “streamlined aircraft bodies, quieter jet engines, techniques for preventing icing, drag-reducing winglets and lightweight composite structures are an everyday part of flying thanks to research concepts and tools that trace their origins to the NACA,” Bolden said in a statement celebrating the milestone anniversary.
NACA’s place in history is also cemented by a set of footprints left behind on the moon. Before NASA was formed, the first man to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong, was a NACA employee.
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