Scope and Content
Title: Archives Reference Collection, National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, Moffett Field, California,
Date (inclusive): 1939-2005
Collection Number: AFS1070.8A
Ames Research Center.
Number of containers: 3 filing cabinets
Volume: approximately 30 cubic feet
NASA Ames History Office. NASA Ames Research Center.
Ames History Office
Moffett Field, California 94035
Abstract: The Archives Reference Collection in the NASA Ames History Office
provides a sampling of materials that span the history of the Center from its origins in
December 1939 through 2005. This collection presents the best general overview of the
activities, people, research and development, and organization of the NASA Ames Research
Center. Emphasized are photographs, news clippings, brochures, and administrative reports
that provide the level of detail needed to answer a query about some subject in Ames
Collection is open for research.
Copyright does not apply to United States government records. For non-government
material, researcher must contact the original creator.
NASA Ames History Office, NASA Ames Research Center. Moffett Field, California. AFS1070.8A, Archives Reference Collection,
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Moffett Field, California, 1939-2005,
[Container number] : [Folder number]. [Identification of item]. [Date, if available].
The Ames Aeronautical Laboratory was the second laboratory of the National Advisory
Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). It was located in Mountain View, California, adjacent to
the Naval Air Station at Moffett Field. Construction began on December 20, 1939, starting
with the flight research building, various wind tunnels, technical services facilities, and
an administration building. The center was christened Ames Aeronautical Laboratory to honor
Dr. Joseph Sweetman Ames, the chairman of NACA from 1927 to 1939 and a staunch advocate for
basic scientific research and the responsibility of the federal government in training
people for it. Responsibility for organizing the center rested with Smith J. DeFrance, who
served as Center Director from 1940 to 1965, and Jack Parsons, who served as his assistant
director for those years. DeFrance attracted to Ames some the brightest aeronautical
engineers, encouraged them to build test facilities to prove their ideas, and then gave them
freedom to pursue useful and exciting work.
During World War II, Ames kept its wind tunnels in almost constant operation, working with
West coast aircraft manufacturers and their military customers to improve such famous
production aircraft as the P-51 Mustang and the P-38 Lightning. Ames built the greatest
collection of wind tunnels in the world, including the 1-by-3 foot supersonic tunnel, the
workhorse 7-by-10 wind tunnels, the 12-foot pressurized tunnel, and the 40-by-80 foot
full-scale wind tunnel, then the world's largest. Harry Goett led the flight and wind tunnel
testing by which Ames solved many of the aerodynamic problems faced by jet aircraft as they
went from subsonic to supersonic speeds. R.T. Jones developed his idea of the supersonic
swept wing and the transonic area rule, which was verified in the Ames wind tunnels.
Ames also built an active flight test program. Pilot George Cooper devised an aircraft
handling rating scale that put eventually led Ames into human factors research. One early
research effort at Ames involved the use of flight test aircraft to devise a hot-air
de-icing system for American aircraft. Lewis Rodert, who led that de-icing research program,
won the 1947 Collier Trophy in recognition of the work done at Ames in service of the war
Into the 1950s, Ames did research at ever greater speeds. Ames technicians built more
sensitive instrumentation and faster wind tunnels to solve the challenges of jet aircraft
and guided missiles. The Unitary Plan Wind Tunnels, opened in 1955, was an engineering
masterpiece of three tunnels operating in an integrated system to make the most efficient
use of drive motors and researchers' time. H. Julian Allen solved many of the most complex
problems of the hypersonic regime, both with his own work and by leading an incredibly
vibrant group of aerodynamicists. Allen, working with Alfred J. Eggers, proposed the concept
of a blunt body shape for reentry vehicles. Then they created a complex of wind tunnels,
ballistic ranges and arc jets which allowed them to develop all the technologies needed for
astronauts to return safely to Earth.
On October 1, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was born,
absorbing the NACA and its laboratories. Ames was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center, and
embraced America's space program. Ames continued its fundamental research in hypersonics and
component technologies, then leveraged its expertise into new areas of space exploration.
Ames became NASA's lead center in basic life sciences research, which included radiation and
gravitational biology, exobiology, human factors, and space physiology and habitability.
Ames aerodynamicists also explored the complex airflows around rotorcraft and devised the
first tilt-rotor aircraft, while others modeled airflows using new supercomputers and
created the field of computational fluid dynamics. To link these computers together, Ames
engineers pioneered internetworking, using tools from the Silicon Valley firms growing
around it. Ames engineers and planetary scientists managed a series of productive airborne
science aircraft, of robotic probes into planetary atmosphere, and robotic explorers like
the Pioneers and Lunar Prospector.
Into the 1990s, Ames created the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field as a place to draw
university and corporate partners from nearby Silicon Valley into space exploration. Ames
leaders continued to explore new ways to develop new technological capabilities--in
astrobiology, robotics, communications, instrumentation, and small satellites--and apply
them to NASA's evolving missions.
The following terms may be used to index this collection.
Ames Research Center
Manned space flight
Scope and Content
The Archives Reference Collection in the NASA Ames History Office provides a sampling of
materials from the Center's past. It spans the history of the Center from its origins in
December 1939 through 2005. The collection originated in the Main Library, where all
varieties of historical materials donated by Ames employees and retirees were accepted. This
Ames History Collection was transferred to the Ames History Office in 1998, and was
processed to support the research for
Atmosphere of Freedom: Sixty
Years at the NASA Ames Research Center
. The collection was then returned to the
Main Library, and more materials added, until the NASA Ames History Office was reopened in
2003. In 2006, the collection was re-organized to allow for greater expansion and more
consistent subject headings. This culminated in the establishment of a new collection, the
Archives Reference Collection. Materials will continue to be added to this collection, and
donations are welcome.
This collection presents the best general overview of the activities, people, research and
development, and organization of the NASA Ames Research Center. This collection emphasizes
photographs, news clippings, brochures, and administrative reports that provide the level of
detail needed to answer a query about some subject in Ames history. The Annual Inspection
booklets, for example, are a wonderful source for the early history of Ames. Later Ames
history is documented through annual reports, facilities inspections and summaries, master
plans, and technical reports. Biographical material can be found about Ames people, such as
the administrative staff, scientists and researchers who have worked at Ames over the
decades. It contains little original correspondence—which is with the National Archives--and
few published materials—which can be found through the Main Library. Furthermore, the
research files generated for the three history books on Ames are filed in a separate
Subjects covered in this collection include exploration missions to other planets in which
NASA Ames participated, such as the Apollo program that sent humans to the moon; Pioneer
program that sent spacecraft to Jupiter, Saturn, and out of the solar system; the
Biosatellite program that first studied the effects of weightlessness on the body; the
Galileo mission to Jupiter in which a probe was sent through the Jovian atmosphere; the
Lunar Prospector mission that sent a probe to the moon, and the Viking mission to Mars. For
the first decades of its existence, Ames pioneered research in aeronautics, wing design,
wind tunnel research, and body shape, all of which are represented in the Archives Reference
In no sense is this collection a comprehensive representation of Ames history. The official
archive of NASA Ames is deposited with the National Archives and Records
Administration--Pacific Region and the Federal Records Center (San Bruno).
This collection is housed in filing cabinets in the Reading Room of the History Office.
Please visit the NASA Ames History Office Web site for a complete
of subjects covered by