Sixty five years ago, a young aeronautics engineer turned the first shovel of dirt on what today is NASA Ames Research Center.

On Dec. 20, 1939, Russell Robinson broke ground at Moffett Field for what would first be known as the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The center was named after Dr. Joseph S. Ames, NACA chairperson in the 1930s. Two decades later, NACA became part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“Ames has always played a pioneering role in advancing our nation’s science and technology objective,” said NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe. “In this great organization we know and love as NASA, Ames plays a pivotal role in our efforts to attain the next big objective of exploration,” O’Keefe added.

“At NASA Ames, we are committed to hiring the best people, developing cutting-edge technologies and delivering outstanding research,” said NASA Ames Center Director G. Scott Hubbard. “Since breaking ground in 1939, Ames has transformed into a world- class leader in science and technology. The center’s rich history and progressive present position Ames well for the new and exciting challenges of space exploration of the 21st century.”

To commemorate its 65th anniversary, NASA Ames invites the public to join scientists for a free public all-day event at the NASA Ames Exploration Center from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. PST on Dec. 20. Visitors will meet Ames’ special guests: NASA astronaut Janice Voss, who has flown five times on the space shuttle as a mission specialist, and nationally recognized author Don Blair, who covered NASA’s Gemini and Apollo missions as a newsman.

A variety of displays showcasing Ames’ colorful history will be featured for visitors, who also will see the premier showing of a new Ames history video and other programs describing the past, present and future of NASA Ames’ contributions to science and discovery. Renowned NASA scientists will discuss Ames’ exciting contributions to the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.  

“In its 65-year history, NASA Ames has made a major impact on America’s aeronautics and space programs,” said NASA Ames historian Jack Boyd. “The swept-back wing now used on all high-speed aircraft was developed by an engineer who worked at Ames. The blunt-body concept used on every spacecraft to prevent burning upon entering a planetary atmosphere was developed here as well.”

NASA Ames engineers managed the Pioneer planetary spacecraft. The robot explorer was the first human-made object to pass through the asteroid belt, leave our solar system and visit the giant planets. The Viking life detection experiment, which first landed on the surface of Mars to search for life, was designed by Ames scientists, and led to our current research in astrobiology. The Lunar Prospector, which discovered evidence of water in ice at the moon’s poles, was devised by and controlled from Ames. Most recently, Ames made many contributions to the stunning success of the 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers, including tests of the parachutes in Ames’ wind tunnels and tests of the reentry materials in the arc jets.

In aeronautics, Ames is a recognized leader in the science of computational fluid dynamics and airspace operations systems, including air traffic control and human factors. “Our deep roots in aeronautics contributed to the development of thermal protection systems, simulation technology and tilt rotor craft, as well as to our support of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle missions,” Boyd added.

In the life and space sciences, Ames significantly increased our understanding of the effects of gravity on living things, and is home to the NASA Astrobiology Institute that focuses on searching for life in neighboring galaxies. 

“Our location in Silicon Valley enables Ames to leverage the emerging convergence of biology, information science and nanotechnology,” Hubbard added. “This new domain will transform NASA’s mission by dramatically increasing existing capabilities and introducing unexpected new ones,” he said.

For more information about NASA Ames and the celebration of its 65-year-history of innovation, please visit the World Wide Web at: