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

  • Peter Morgan / Reuters

    Photos: 15 Years Since the 2003 Northeast Blackout

    On August 14, 2003, more than 50 million people across eight U.S. states and parts of Canada were left without power for days in the most widespread blackout in North American history.

  • FTCS (SS) Bob Nguyen / U.S. Navy

    Photos of the Week: Robot Cat, Purple Water, Tunnel of Love

    Missiles fly between Israel and Gaza, dizzying views in Hong Kong, a migrant family is reunited in Guatemala, a boisterous rodeo in Australia, wildfires intensify in California, and much more.

  • Tatan Syuflana / AP

    Images From the Lombok Island Earthquake

    On the Indonesian island of Lombok, near Bali, at least 250 deaths and many hundreds of injuries have been reported, and tens of thousands have been left homeless.

  • Bettmann / Getty

    Historic Cat Photos on International Cat Day

    Fashions and technologies may change over time, but cats never go out of style.