Saturday, June 27, 2015

Retro Saturday: Western Aeronautical Test Range

Click the arrow to watch the film. Video source: wdtvlive42 YouTube channel.

The first “A” in NASA stands for Aeronautics, often overlooked by the world that thinks that the agency is only about astronauts in space.

This week's Retro Saturday is a 1988 documentary by NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California, north of San Jose. It's about the Western Aeronautical Test Range (WATR) based at Edwards Air Force Base, which is also the home to the Dryden Flight Research Center. In 2014, Dryden was renamed the Armstrong Flight Research Center after astronaut Neil Armstrong. The (WATR) was renamed the Dryden Aeronautical Test Range (DATR).

Clear as mud?

Anyway, the Range has history that precedes NASA's creation in October 1958. It was here that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. The X-15 flew here, its origins with NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). One of the X-15 pilots was some guy named Neil Armstrong ... and you thought they renamed the place because he walked on the Moon.

Tracking the X-15 required a new system dubbed the X-15 Range. Out of that evolved the WATR that would go on to service the Space Shuttle and decades of experimental aircraft.

If you're old enough to remember EGA computer monitors, you'll have a flashback watching this documentary.

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