Projects and Programs

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[top] Langley Programs and Projects

Apollo ProgramAstronaut TrainingEchoFIREFlight Research, EarlyFlight Research, ModernGeminiHALOEJet Shoes and Other Self-PropulsionLong Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF)MercuryMilitary WorkRocketsSATSScoutSpace ShuttleSkylabVikingVoyager

[top] History Books

Langley's Cultural Resources Program, the NASA History Office, and a handful of historians are dedicated to documenting and preserving our remarkable history through a variety of media. The following publications specifically relate to NASA Langley Research Center and are available in a variety of formats.


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Emblems of Exploration. 2015. Over the course of their histories, the NACA and NASA have developed a wide variety of emblems representing each agency’s illustrious exploration of aerospace missions. This publication concentrates on the rich and interesting history of the conception and implementation of the world-famous NACA and NASA seals and insignias that have been displayed for decades on aeronautics and space research vehicles and facilities, as well as those proudly worn by flight research pilots, astronauts, and the dedicated employees of these two world-class organizations.

Available as a PDF file.


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Elegance in Flight. 2015. A comprehensive case study covering all aspects of the F-16XL saga from its early conceptual design—including wind tunnel and ground testing, computer simulations, and program advocacy—through construction of the two prototypes and their use in both the Air Force flight demonstration effort and NASA aeronautical research. As much a NASA story as it is an Air Force and General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin story, the F-16XL is one of the most elegant American fighters ever built.

Available in three electronic formats.



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Cave of the Winds. 2014. The huge Langley Full-Scale Tunnel building dominated the skyline of Langley Air Force Base for 81 years (1930–2011). The Full-Scale Tunnel was constructed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) during an era when biplanes and dirigibles dominated aviation. The results of critical tests conducted within its massive test section contributed to many of the Nation's most important aeronautics and space programs. The historical significance of the Full-Scale Tunnel was formally recognized when it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 by the National Park Service.

Click here for Electronic Formats.





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Forty Years of Aeronautical Research. 1956. A history of the establishment of NACA, building Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, and the other NACA centers. Written by J.C. Hunsaker, chairman of NACA and regent for the Smithsonian Institution. Originally published as part of the Smithsonian Report for 1955, pages 241-271. Includes 10 plates of images.

Click here for PDF format.






Fifty Years of Flight Research:A Chronology of the Langley Research Center, 1917-1966. 1966. Many basic innovations in aeronautical development derive from research conducted at Langley, the only laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics for over two decades. This comment edition of NASA publication HHN-65 provides a documented chronology of the people, facilities, and work at Langley and provides a basic guide for historians concerned with the evolving relations of the Federal Government with aerospace research.

Click here for PDF format.


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Winds of Change: Expanding the Frontiers of Flight: Langley Research Center's 75 Years of Accomplishment 1917-1992. 1992. This commemorative volume highlights in pictures and text seventy five years of accomplishments of the Langley Research Center. The introductory matter features wind tunnels and their contribution to the development of aeronautics. A chronological survey details four different periods in Langley's history. The first period, 1917-1939, is subtitled 'Perfecting the Plane' which details Langley's contribution to early aeronautics with examples from specific aircraft. The second period, 1940-1957, focuses on the development of military aircraft during and after World War II. The third period, 1958-1969, tells the story of Langley's involvement with NASA and the satellite and Apollo era. The fourth period, entitled 'Charting New Courses: 1970-1992 and Beyond', treats various new topics from aerospace planes to Mars landing, as well as older topics such as the Space Shuttle and research spinoffs.

Click here for black and white version in PDF format.

Click here for color version.


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Airborne Trailblazer. 1994. This book is the story of a very unique airplane and the contributions it has made to the air transportation industry. NASA's Boeing 737-100 Transport Systems Research Vehicle was the prototype 737, acquired by the Langley Research Center in 1974 to conduct research into advanced transport aircraft technologies. In the twenty years that followed, the airplane participated in more than twenty different research projects, evolving from a research tool for a specific NASA program into a national airborne research facility. It played a critical role in developing and gaining acceptance for numerous significant transport technologies, including "glass cockpits," airborne windshear detection systems, data link for air traffic control communications, the microwave landing system, and the satellite-based global positioning system (GPS).

Available in PDF (poor quality copy) and through Amazon.com.




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Partners in Freedom: Contributions of the Langley Research Center to U.S. Military Aircraft of the 1990s. 2000. Throughout it history, NASA Langley has maintained a close working partnership with other agencies to support the defense of our country. This publication details contributions such as drag clean-up in WWII, supersonic flight, development of the Century-series fighters, and many others. This particular book focuses on contributions to U.S. military aircraft of the 1990s. Virtually all military aircraft that participated in Operation Desert Storm, Kosovo, and other peacekeeping missions of this era have Langley technical contributions to their design, development, and support. Many of the military aircraft as of late 1999 were over 20 years old. NASA Langley activities the contributed to the development of some of these aircraft began over 50 years prior.

Teachers can request copies of this book from the Virginia Education Resource Center by emailing Swee Hart.

Click here for PDF format.




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Concept to Reality: Contributions of the NASA Langley Research Center to U.S. Civil Aircraft of the 1990s. 2003. Langley's legacy of critical contributions to the civil aviation industry includes a wide variety of activities ranging from fundamental physics to applied engineering disciplines. Through a variety of mechanisms, the Center has maintained an awareness of the unique problems and challenges facing the U.S. civil aviation industry. Researchers have conceived and conducted extremely relevant research that has been applied directly to civil aircraft, resulting in increased performance, enhanced safety, and improve competitiveness. Written as a companion to Partners in Freedom, the book provides significant examples of the impact of Langley's research on civil aircraft of the 1990s in areas such as take and and landing, crash worthiness, stall spin behavior, and other challenging technical areas. Differing from military involvement, constraints in the civil arena are especially apparent during startup and development of commercial aircraft. Nonetheless, fundamental generic research, general guidelines for advanced design, unique facilities, and specialized expertise have been valued and applied by industry to a large number of current civil aircraft.

Teachers can request copies of this book from the Virginia Education Resource Center by emailing Swee Hart.

Click her for PDF format.



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Crafting Flight: Aircraft Pioneers and the Contributions of the Men and Women of NASA Langley Research Center. 2003. A self-contained history of NASA Langley's contributions to flight, along with support and contributions form other NASA Centers and organizations. Written in celebration of 100 years of flight, this publication looks back over countless contributions of many individuals. Forward written by Delma Freeman, director of Langley Research Center at that time.

Copies may be ordered from the History Office.

Click here for PDF format.



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From Research to Relevance. Advances in aviation have rapidly evolved since the Wright brothers performed the first successful piloted, controlled, and sustained powered flight on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. However, at every step forward for this remarkable development of flying machines came major barriers and continuous encounters with the complex technical phenomena surrounding the science of flight. In 1917, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

(NACA) established Langley as its laboratory for identifying and finding solutions to the many challenges of aviation.

Click here for PDF format.



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Innovation in Flight: Research of the NASA Langley Research Center on Revolutionary Advanced Concepts for Aeronautics. 2005. A companion book to Partners in Freedom and Concept to Reality, this volume examines the investment in innovation, expertise, researchers, and unique facilities at NASA Langley. Literally thousands of revolutionary concepts and advanced technologies for aeronautics have emerged. Unfortunately, only a handful of advanced concepts are ever applied. Factors that inhibit the application include cost, environmental impact, safety, complexity, world events, technical barriers, and others. The objective of this book is to discuss the importance of innovation and the role of the revolutionary advanced concepts within the aeronautics research community, and to provide information on typical advanced research projects conducted at Langley that have not yet been applied to production aircraft.

Teachers can request copies of this book from the Virginia Education Resource Center by emailing Swee Hart.

Click here for PDF format.




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Images of Aviation: Flight Research at NASA Langley Research Center. 2007. Mark Chambers offers a photographic history of flight research, unique aircraft and prominent test pilots, including Bob Champine and Jack Reeder. The project allowed him to combine his enthusiasm for aviation with his personal and professional knowledge of NASA Langley. "Readers will get to see the wide variety of aircraft and the personnel that made a difference in advancing American aviation," Chambers said.

Available through Arcadia Publishing.






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Engineering Test Pilot:The Exceptional Career of John P. "Jack" Reeder. 2007. Mark Chambers, a personal friend of Jack Reeder, writes on the life and contributions of this NASA Langley test pilot. Reeder contributed many personal photographs and anecdotes to this warm account of Jack's life and contributions to aeronautical research. Born in 1916, Reeder came to the NACA upon graduation from the University of Michigan in 1938. Starting in the Full Scale Tunnel, he transferred to the Flight Research Division in 1942 where, in his first year, he piloted 19 new aircraft. He is best known for his pioneering work in helicopter and V/STOL aerodynamics. Reeder retired in 1980 and passed away in 1999.

Published by the Virginia Aviation Historical Society and available at the Richmond Airport. Contact Jennifer Melton at (804) 222-8690 or Jennifer Melton, VAHS.






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Radical Wings & Wind Tunnels: Advanced Concepts Tested at NASA Langley. 2008. Father and son authors Joseph and Mark Chambers combine forces to present a behind-the-scenes look at how the NACA, and today s NASA, have used wind tunnels and flight-testing in past and current projects to advance aeronautical science.

Available through Amazon.com.






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From Biplanes to Apollo. 2012. A brief history of the NASA Langley Center over the first 55 years of existence. Book includes contributions to the technological developments of manned flight from fabric-covered biplanes to the dramatic moon missions of Apollo. The significance of the contributions to aeronautical and spaceflight development resulted in designation of a historic district. Copies are available at various visitor centers across Hampton.

Teachers can request copies of this book from the Virginia Education Resource Center by emailing Swee Hart.

Click here for PDF Format



The NASA History Office has a large collection of free e-books about space history. The selection includes old favorites like The Difficult Road to Mars: A Brief History of Mars Exploration in the Soviet Union and Wind Tunnels of NASA, written by Don Baals and focusing heavily on NASA Langley. Although this is one of the best collections of space history to be found, some of the formatting is a bit clumsy. Many of the works are broken up into smaller pieces, forcing the reader to click through page after page. But as a singular information repository, this storehouse is hard to beat.

[top] History Hunt

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Do you work at Langley? Have you ever wanted to learn more about the history of the Center? Do you like a challenge? Then the NASA Langley waymarking history hunt is for you! Here is what you will need:


1. Access privileges for NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base (the waymarks are all inside the security perimeter of these two facilities)

2. A means of getting around the Center (car, bike, etc.)

3. Mobile access to the Internet and GPS (such as a GPS-equipped smartphone.)


Your GPS device must be capable of accepting input in the form of latitude and longitude. There are free apps (such as Google Maps) that will accept input in this form.


Waymarking is "a way to mark unique locations on the planet and give them a voice...our goal is to give people the tools to help others share and discover unique and interesting locations on the planet." NASA Langley Research Center has several locations that definitely qualify as "unique and interesting," such as the site of the first free public school in America and a plantation owned by the man whose signature is first among Virginia delegates on the Declaration of Independence. The Cultural Resources Office has created a series of waymarks that highlight the history of NASA Langley Research Center from the 1600s through today. Just click on the links below to find information and coordinates for each of the nine waymarks that make up the history hunt. Then copy and paste the coordinates into your GPS device. (A waymarking.com membership is not required, although you can get a basic membership for free and log your finds there for others to see.) Can you find them all?


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Variable Density Tunnel

Cloverdale Plantation Site

Lunar Landing Research Facility

Chesterville Plantation Site

Syms Free School - First Free Public School in America

Structures and Materials Research Facility (Building 1148)

16 Foot Transonic Tunnel (Building 1146)

Eight Foot High-Speed Tunnel

NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory


[top] Education Modules for Teachers & Students

[top] Advancements in Aviation Technology

These projects are intended primarily for use in US History classrooms at the high school level, and are aligned with the appropriate VA SOL's for the high school course entitled: Virginia & US History. However, they could also be utilized in middle school level US history classrooms, as well as middle school and high school world history classrooms. When using these projects in the latter classrooms, it is suggested that the teacher ensure proper alignment with the appropriate standards of learning required by their state's department of education.

Students will be able to describe specific advancements in LaRC aviation technology between 1917 and 1945 using primary and secondary sources. Students will be able to explain the diverse effects of such technological advancement abroad and on the home front during World War II using primary and secondary sources.

Aviation Technology Project 1 - Stations Activity

  • To what extent was aviation technology research at LaRC import to the United States between 1917 and 1945?
  • How did aviation technology affect change socially and economically at home and militarily abroad during World War II?

Aviation Technology Project 2 - Gallery Walk

  • What are some of the important early advancements in aviation technology achieved through research at Langley?
  • How did the technological advancements achieved at Langley affect social, economic, and military dynamics both in the IS and abroad during World War II?

Aviation Technology Project 3 - Turning Points

  • To what extent did the capture of and aviation research performed on a Japanese fighter plane shift the dynamics between US and Japanese pilots in the Pacific?
  • What inferences can be drawn from analyzing multiple historical texts about this event of World War II?

Aviation Technology Project 4 - Langley Research Center

  • How has Langley Research Center grown and developed since 1917?
  • Why did specific changes to the center occur during certain time periods in US history?


[top] Social Impacts

These four lessons are intended to be used in a high school social studies class. They are designed to familiarize students with impacts NASA Langley Research Center had on twentieth century American society.


NASA Langley and Racial Relations

  • What impacts did NASA Langley have on racial relations in American society during the twentieth century?

Students will explore background information on Langley Research Center and then analyze local newspaper articles addressing racial issues at Langley. The lesson concludes with writing a persuasive essay.


NASA and the Cold War

  • What impact did NASA Langley have on the role of the United States in the Cold War?

Students will become familiar with the impact the research conducted at NASA Langley had on the role of the United States in the Cold War. Students will analyze primary and secondary source documents and then work in groups to research and create presentations on chosen topics. Students will individually write a reflective paper evaluating their experiences and understanding of the impacts of NASA Langley.


NASA Langley and Human Computers

  • What impact did the employment of human computers at NASA Langley have on American society?

Students will explore information on NASA Langley to familiarize themselves with background information about human computers, and then will analyze primary source material on one of the women.


NASA and World War II

  • What impacts did NASA Langley have on American society during WWII?

Students will partner with a peer to examine eight documents and provide analysis. Students will be asked to synthesize information to develop a thorough understanding of content and then individually write a persuasive essay.


[top] History of NASA/Oral History

Space flight has captivated the American public throughout history. However, its popularity has varied over time. This lesson plan concludes with students interviewing an adult about their memories of any of NASA’s launches and work in teams within the classroom to understand the varied experiences of historic events.


[top] Activity Book (elementary age)

[top] Astronaut Training

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[top] Human Space Flight

Kennedy Space Center printed an educational activity booklet several years ago on Human Space Flight. Although slightly dated, there are ten activities that would be appropriate for elementary age students. The topics include:

  • Moon Survival
  • Gravitational Forces
  • Reaction Time
  • Number Dexterity
  • Designing a Space Station
  • What You Eat
  • Zero-G Demonstrator
  • Phototropism Maze
  • Space Station Model
  • Respiration


Dressing for Altitude

Read about one of NASA's newest books, Dressing for Altitude. It is important to note that it is not about spacesuits. It's about pressure suits. "The differences between a full-pressure suit and a spacesuit are subtle," said Dennis R. Jenkins, author of "Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits – Wiley Post to Space Shuttle." Publication of "Dressing for Altitude" was sponsored and funded by the communications and education department of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. Download eBook.

1940s-era laminated rubber fabric pressure suit commonly called the "tomato-worm suit" in reference to its exaggerated bellows on the arms and legs. Image: National Archives College Park CollectionPilot Scott Crossfield in 1950s-era pressure suit after emerging from tests inside the Wright Field human centrifuge that reproduced conditions at 7-G. Image: National Archives College Park CollectionSpace shuttle astronauts, taking part in a space flight awareness photo shoot, unintentionally demonstrated the flexibility of the training version of the S105 pressure suit. Image: NASA


Gimbal Rig Mercury Astronaut Training

The Multiple-axis Space Test Inertia Facility (MASTIF), fondly called "the gimbal rig," simulated tumble-type maneuvers that might be encountered in space flight. Three tubular aluminum cages could revolve separately or in combination to give roll, pitch and yaw motions at speeds up to 30 revolutions per minute, greater than those expected in actual space flight. Nitrogen-gas jets, attached to the three cages, controlled the motion. NASA Lewis (now Glenn) engineers built the entire rig inside a test chamber in the Center's old Altitude Wind Tunnel.

From February 15 through March 4, 1960, the gimbal rig provided valuable training for all seven Project Mercury astronauts. Each experienced about five hours of simulated flight time.

1959 Gimbal Rig1959 Construction1959 Gimbal Rig Motion1959 Gimbal Trainer1959 Gimbal Trainer1960 Grissom and Shepard1960 Jerrie Cobb


Simulator Training with Neil Armstrong in 1969

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Astronomy Classes at Morehead Planetarium

1965 McDivett White (Gemini)

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, with one of the largest planetariums in the United States, is located on the north end of the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center Building was a gift of John Motley Morehead III (1870-1965), class of 1891, whose mission of educating the community lives on. Since 1949, the planetarium has been a giant classroom for students, teachers, school groups, senior citizens, youth groups and the general public. As the United States space program began, the Morehead provided training for U.S. astronauts from the Mercury program to the Apollo-Soyuz program.

Ten years after opening, Morehead Planetarium was called to serve not only the people of North Carolina but also the nation’s burgeoning space program. Astronauts needed training in celestial navigation to ensure that they would be able to pilot their spacecraft if navigational systems failed. Visit their webpage for a long list of astronaut who trained there.


Effects on the Human Body

Before takeoff, astronauts entered the space craft to practice countdowns, take off sequences, and flight tests at Kennedy/Cape Canaveral. (See more).

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Splash Down

Each astronaut also had to learn how to exit the space capsule once it splashed down in the ocean. The photos below show splash down training at Ellington Field in Houston. (See more.)

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Besides the training at Ellington Field, astronaut training was performed at NASA Langley in Hampton, VA. Victor Page of Poquoson, Virginia wrote:

I can remember the Mercury Astronauts training in the Back River and at Factory Point. Between the Wharf and the end of the runway helicopters would lower what I always thought were capsules into the river and one of the trainees would get out and climb into a life raft and then get into a lift type sling and get pulled back up into the chopper. Dull stuff now but back then pretty exciting for a twelve or so year old boy. The next couple of days would be spent walking the high tide line down the marsh looking for the die packets that always drifted ashore after our spacemen finished practice. Then there was the beach at Factory Point. Survival training required pilots to come ashore and find drinkable water. Mama had told me not to mess with the Langley men as they were too busy for us to bother. I hope I didn't bore anyone, just something I remember from growing up!


Geology Field Trips

Apollo astronauts were responsible for collecting geological specimens (rocks and sediment) from the moon's surface. (See more)

Quitman NMFlagstaf, AZHawaiiPancake Range, NVIceland


Survival Training

If a returning Apollos space capsule were to miss the ocean and hit land, NASA wanted its astronauts to be prepared to survive wherever they landed. To prepare for this contingency, astronauts were sent for jungle and desert survival training.

1963 Panama Jungle Training1964 Desert Training Graduation1967 Desert Training1967 Desert Snake Training1967 Desert Training1967 Panama Jungle Training1967 Jungle Tree Cutting1967 Panama Jungle TrainingDesert Training1962 Survival Kit1962 Survival Food


Lunar Roving Vehicle

A Lunar Roving Vehicle was designed to transport the astronauts to sampling sites where they could complete their missions without experiencing exhaustion

1970 Astronauts with Lunar Rover1970 Loading LRV1970 Young Duke Training MSC1971 LRV deployment sequence1972 LRV testing JSC


In June 2008, NASA tested several lunar concepts at the dunes near Moses Lake, Washington. For more on these tests, see Moses Lake. The Moses Lake page includes links to 20 videos of the tests.


[top] Mercury Program Student Activity

[top] Apollo Program

Teacher Pages for Astronaut Training

Traveling outside of Earth's atmosphere is not an easy thing to do. The first American astronauts to do so were modern day pioneers part of NASA's Project Mercury. The success of the Mercury project lead to the Gemini and Apollo projects, and in 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon.

What had to happen before astronauts could walk on the moon? Scientists and engineers worked long hours creating the machinery and equipment required for safe transit to and from space as the search for our nation's first astronauts was begun. After the astronauts were identified, each man began a rigorous training cycle in locations around the world.

The first American astronauts to travel outside of the Earth's atmosphere were part of NASA's Mercury program. Their success led to the Gemini and Apollo programs.

This activity allows students to select the mission and then explore the astronaut's Space School by using an interactive online map.

Before selecting your training program, think about what is happening in this photo.

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For further reading, see the Grumman Horizons special issue on Apollo, our man-on-the-moon program; Vol. 4, Number 2. 1964.

Also, read the day-by-day account of the Log of Apollo 11.


[top] Neutral Buoyancy Simulator - What is Buoyancy?

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The Neutral Buoyancy Simulator provides a simulated weightless environment needed to perform engineering tests in preparation for space missions. The extra vehicle activity for the Skylab rescue and Apollo Telescope Mount film retrieved was developed at Marshall Space Flight Center.

[top] Exploring NASA Centers

Geography is defined as the study of the Earth and its lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena. It is important to know how the location of something influences people, the environment, the economy, and how they are all connected. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help decision makers choose the right locations for businesses, government agencies, even satellite and space exploration mission launches. This lesson demonstrates how geography influences where NASA Centers across the United States are located.

The lessons incorporate the use of a geographic information system (GIS). GIS integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts. A GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.

Download the lesson plan.


[top] Early American History

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Many significant historical figures and events are associated with land now used by NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, VA. The most well known former inhabitant is George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The first European to live on the property was most likely John Laydon, who arrived in April of 1607 on the Susan Constant. Laydon and Ann Burrows were the first couple married in Colonial America, and Virginia, their child, was the first child born in the new colony. Documentation of the plantations provides insight into the lives of colonists during great events in American History, from the Revolutionary War to the post-Civil War period.

This activity allows you to learn about families who lived here before NASA and the Air Force Base were built. The objective of this activity is to provide a practical history of the area to Virginia students studying Virginia and Early American History, using documents (including maps) of the studied time frames. Portions of this information was obtained from Archaeological Surveys commissioned by NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base.

Student Activities

Teacher Pages


[top] Mystery Archives

mystery archives

Mystery Archives 2014

Mystery Archives 2013

Mystery Archives 2012

Mystery Archives 2011

Mystery Archives 2010

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