NASA's First A: Aeronautics from 1958 to 2008

By Newcomer, Jason M. | Air & Space Power Journal, November 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

NASA's First A: Aeronautics from 1958 to 2008


Newcomer, Jason M., Air & Space Power Journal


NASA's First A: Aeronautics from 1958 to 2008 by Robert G. Ferguson. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (http://www.nasa.gov), 300 East Street Southwest, Washington, DC 20546, 2013, 293 pages, ISBN 978-1-62683-009-7. Available free from http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/NASAsFirstA-508-ebook.pdf.

"The Other NASA" best summarizes Robert Ferguson's most recent addition to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Historic Program Office's history series. In NASA's First A: Aeronautics from 1958 to 2008, Ferguson brings to light the often forgotten and seldom known history of NASA research and the resulting impact it had on the development of airpower, military strategy, space capability, technology, and US economic growth. Ferguson reveals NASA's rich history of research, spanning multiple laboratories and test sites, which led to technological advances in aeronautics such as military rocketry programs, the X-15 space plane, spacecraft capable of landing after Earth reentry, and the supersonic transport. Finally, he explores the most turbulent of times when US political and economic factors, unnecessary competition, and lack of market discipline threatened the future of aeronautics research toward the turn of the millennium in the 1990s.

Ferguson explains in detail how, unlike space research, aeronautics research initiatives delivered to the US taxpayer practical and largely accepted solutions to economic, military, and commercial challenges. One of the most utilized-and least known of commercial advances-is the winglets on the tips of US commercial airliners and newer military cargo jets, a component designed to increase efficiency and reduce drag at subsonic speeds. Another dually beneficial advance propelled by aeronautics research is the subsonic airfoil-a design perfected by NASA researchers for highly efficient, low-drag, high-subsonic wings. …

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