Space History Photo: The 80 x 40 Foot Wind Tunnel at Ames

space history, NACA, wind tunnels
A 1947 insider view of NACA's 80x40 wind tunnel where winds can get to upwards of 250 miles per hour. (Image credit: NACA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, we see down the throat of the world's largest wind tunnel. The 1947 scene is NACA's 40 x 80 foot wind tunnel at Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field, California. The camera is stationed in the tunnel's largest section, 173 feet wide by 132 feet high. Here at top speed the air, driven by six 40 foot fans, is moving about 35 to 40 miles per hour.

The rapid contraction of the throat (or nozzle) speeds up this air flow to more than 250 miles per hour in the oval test section, which is 80 feet wide and 40 feet high. The tunnel encloses 900 tons of air, 40 tons of which rush through the throat per second at maxium speed.

Dwarfed by the immensity of the tunnel structure, the experimental model seen here is actually almost 50 feet long. Embodying a sharply swept-back wing suitable for supersonic flight, it is undergoing tests designed to improve the landing characteristics of this type of airfoil. Mounted on struts connected to scales under the test section, it is "flown standing still" while each element such as lift and drag is measured and air pressures occuring across the wing are recorded. Information gathered from such tests were made available to the nation's aircraft manufacturers by the NACA, an independent agency of the U.S. Government.

The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) was a precursor to NASA. NACA was created by Congress in 1915.

Each weekday, looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

NASA Archives
U.S. Space Agency

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: