Review: NACA to NASA to Now
by Jeff Foust
|Launius is able to condense more than a century of activities into less than 300 pages.|
The first part of the book is roughly chronological, starting with the origins of the NACA in 1915 as a response to World War I and concerns that the United States was behind in the development of aviation technologies. (Launius notes that while the space agency is known simply as NASA, its predecessor was always “the N-A-C-A”, with the definite article and the letters spelled out rather than pronounced.) It follows the growth of the NACA through the two world wars and development of supersonic flight, to its transformation to NASA in 1958. The NASA portions of the book are more thematic, with individual chapters on the race to the Moon, the shuttle, space stations, science, and its continued work in aeronautics. The book’s final chapter looks at NASA’s embrace of commercialization, particularly with commercial cargo and crew.
In the epilogue, Launius notes he often is asked to name the biggest accomplishments of NASA and the NACA. Apollo 11 is at the top of the list, of course, but he offers a mix of others (which he calls his favorite landings) that include the first and last shuttle missions, all the Mars missions, but also airplanes that have landed safely despite wind shear and icing, thanks to NASA/NACA aeronautics research. It’s a reminder of what those paired organizations have accomplished in air and space over more than a century, a legacy NASA seeks to build upon from Artemis to aeronautics.
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