Testing Aircraft, Exploring Space: An Illustrated History of NACA and NASA

By Kamykowski, Rick | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Testing Aircraft, Exploring Space: An Illustrated History of NACA and NASA


Kamykowski, Rick, Air & Space Power Journal


Testing Aircraft, Exploring Space: An Illustrated History of NACA and NASA by Roger E. Bilstein. Johns Hopkins University Press (http://www .press.jhu.edu), 2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, 2003, 256 pages, $42.95 (hardcover).

As many of my baby-boomer peers have done, I have tended to equate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with the development of spaceflight and exploration of the universe. My memory of the space race in the late 1950s, the 1960s race for the moon, and the space shuttle of the 1980s overshadows all the organization's other aeronautical activities during those years. This book did a good job of helping me understand the organization's journey from the early National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) organization to the current NASA agency.

Testing Aircraft, Exploring Spare is an excellent starting point for someone with a general knowledge of aviation history and a desire to understand the origins and history of NASA in its current form. This, the fourth edition of the book, is the first to be published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. The third edition appeared in 1989 under the tide Orders of Magnitude: A History of NACA and NASA. Roger Bilstein authored both of those editions. The latest one includes more recent events through 2002 (before the Columbia shuttle accident) and carries a new title.

As the early aviation pioneers of the 1910s experimented with flying machines, legislation for NACA slipped through Congress in 1915 on a rider to the Naval Appropriation Bill, which provided $5,000 annually for an unpaid panel of 12 experts to pursue "the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solution," according to Public Law 271, passed in March 1915. This simple start grew into the United States' premier aeronautical research organization, leading the development of nearly all advances used by US aircraft during the two world wars and into the 1950s. …

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