Historic Photos of NASA's Cavernous Wind Tunnels

Throughout the 20th century, NASA (and its predecessor, NACA) made extensive use of wind tunnels to test and refine designs for airplanes, spacecraft, and many other vehicles and structures. Dozens of specialized tunnels were constructed over the years at Langley Research Center in Virginia and Ames Research Center in California, to test the effects of high windspeed, turbulence, icing, ionization, and much more. Some of these facilities were gigantic—the largest, still in operation, is the 80-foot by 120-foot tunnel at NASA's Ames Research Center. In the 1990s, a surplus of government wind tunnels and advances in computer simulations led to a consolidation, and a number of older facilities were demolished. Gathered here, a collection of images of NASA’s amazing wind tunnels from the past century.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Kyodo / Reuters

    Scenes From the Aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis in Japan

    Images of the damage and immediate recovery work taking place in Japan after its worst storm in decades

  • Jam Sta Rosa / AFP via Getty

    Photos of the Week: Ute Muster, Snow Leopard, Highway Acrobat

    A dog exhibition in Bishkek, a Kali Uchis performance in Texas, a demon-king burning in India, attacks on Kurdish sites in Syria, unrest in Haiti, the Masham Sheep Fair in England, and much more.

  • Tomacrosse / Shutterstock

    A Photo Trip to the Bungle Bungles

    Spectacular karst sandstone formations in Western Australia’s Purnululu National Park

  • Dolores Ochoa / AP

    Anti-austerity Protests and Strikes Shut Down Quito, Ecuador

    Demonstrations have roiled Ecuador’s capital city for more than a week, after the government eliminated a long-standing subsidy, doubling the price of fuel.