The Wind and Beyond, Volume 1: The Ascent of the Airplane
|eBooks - Astronomy & Space Science|
|May 04 2008|
The Wind and Beyond:
The NASA History Series. NASA SP-2003-4409.
Airplane travel is surely one of the most significant technological achievements of the last century. The impact of the airplane goes far beyond the realm of the history of technology and touches upon virtually every aspect of society, from economics to politics to engineering and science. While space exploration often claims more public glory than aeronautics research, many more individuals have been able to fly within the Earth’s atmosphere than above it. Thus, aeronautics and air travel have had an enormous practical impact on many more individuals.
For this reason, if no other, it is certainly an appropriate time to document the rich legacy of aeronautical achievements that has permeated our society. It is especially timely to do so during the centennial anniversary of the Wrightbrothers’ historic flight of 1903.
Dr. James R. Hansen and his collaborators do more than just document the last century of flight. They go back and expertly trace the historical origins of what made the first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered airplane flight possible on 17 December 1903. Some names covered in this volume, such as Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci, are familiar to even the most casual reader. Other heralded, but less well-known, early pioneers of flight such as George Cayley, Otto Lilienthal, Theodore von Kármán, and Theodore Theodorsen will come alive to readers through their original letters, memos, and other primary documents as they conjoin with the authors’ insightful and elegantly written essays.
This first volume, plus the succeeding five now in preparation, covers the impact of aerodynamic development on the evolution of the airplane in America. As the six-volume series will ultimately demonstrate, just as the airplane is a defining technology of the twentieth century, aerodynamics has been the defining element of the airplane. Volumes two through six will proceed in roughly chronological order, covering such developments as the biplane, the advent of commercial airliners, flying boats, rotary aircraft, supersonic flight, and hypersonic flight.
This series is designed as an aeronautics companion to the Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program (NASA SP-4407) series of books. As with Exploring the Unknown, the documents collected during this research project were assembled from a diverse number of public and private sources. A major repository of primary source materials relative to the history of the civil space program is the NASA Historical Reference Collection in the NASA Headquarters History Office. Historical materials housed at NASA field centers, academic institutions, and Presidential libraries were other sources of documents considered for inclusion, as were papers in the archives of private individuals and corporations.
The format of this volume also is very similar to that of the Exploring the Unknown volumes. Each section in the present volume is introduced by an overview essay that is intended to introduce and complement the documents in the section and to place them in a chronological and substantive context. Each essay contains references to the documents in the section it introduces, and many also contain references to documents in other sections of the collection. These introductory essays are the responsibility of Dr. Hansen, the series’ author and chief editor, and the views and conclusions contained therein do not necessarily represent the opinions of either Auburn University or NASA.
The documents included in each section were chosen by Dr. Hansen’s project team from a much longer list initially assembled by the research staff. The contents of this volume emphasize primary documents, including long-out-of-print essays and articles as well as material from the private recollections of important actors in shaping aerodynamic thinking in the United States and abroad. Some key legislation and policy statements are also included. As much as possible, the contents of this volume (and the five volumes to come) in themselves comprise an integrated historical narrative, though Dr. Hansen’s team encourages readers to supplement the account found herein with other sources that have already or will come available.
For the most part, the documents included in each section are arranged chronologically. Each document is assigned its own number in terms of the section in which it is placed. As a result, for example, the fifteenth document in the second chapter of this volume is designated “Document 2-l5.” Each document is accompanied by a headnote setting out its context and providing a background narrative. These headnotes also provide specific information and explanatory notes about people and events discussed. Many of the documents, as is the case with Document 2-15, involve document “strings,” i.e., Document 2-15(a–e). Such strings involve multiple documents—in this case, five of them (a through e) that have been grouped together because they relate to one another in a significant way. Together, they work to tell one documentary “story.”
The editorial method that has been adopted seeks to preserve, as much as possible, the spelling, grammar, and language usage as they appear in the original documents. We have sometimes changed punctuation to enhance readability.
We have used the designation [ . . . ] to note where sections of a document have not been included in this publication, and we have avoided including words and phrases that had been deleted in the original document unless they contributed to an understanding of the writer’s thought process in making the record.
Marginal notations on the original documents are inserted into the text of the documents in brackets, each clearly marked as a marginal comment. Page numbers in the original document are noted in brackets internal to the document text. Copies of all documents in their original form are available for research by any interested person at the NASA History Office or Auburn University.
While the Exploring the Unknown series has been a good model in many ways, this volume indeed represents the beginning of a yet another new undertaking into uncharted waters. I am confident that Dr. Hansen and his team have crafted a landmark work that will not only be an important reference work in the history of aeronautics, but will be interesting and informative reading as well. We hope you enjoy this useful book and the forthcoming volumes.
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This volume represents the collected efforts of many members of an outstanding team. At Auburn University, a number of individuals provided generous assistance to Dr. James R. Hansen’s project team. Dr. Paul F. Parks, former University Provost, strongly encouraged and supported the project from its inception, as did Dr. Michael C. Moriarty, Vice President for Research. To undertake his leadership of the project, Dr. Hansen gave up his job as Chair of the Department of History, something he would not have felt comfortable doing without being certain that the administration of his department would be in the capable hands of worthy successors—first, Dr. Larry Gerber, and then Dr. William F. Trimble. Both Gerber and Trimble gave hearty and vocal support to Auburn’s NASA history project.
A number of colleagues in aerospace history gave help to the project, including Distinguished University Professor Dr. W. David Lewis and Dr. Stephen L. McFarland. Dr. Roy V. Houchin, who earned a Ph.D. under Hansen, lent aid and comfort to the project team from his vantage point inside the U.S. Air Force. A number of Hansen’s current graduate students helped the project in various ways, notably Andrew Baird, Amy E. Foster, and Kristen Starr, as did Dr. David Arnold, also of the USAF, who earned a Ph.D. in aerospace history during the time period when this project was being conducted.
Historians and archivists at a number of other facilities also aided the project. Most of these are acknowledged in the “Series Bibliographic Essay,” which appears early in this volume.
At NASA Headquarters, a number of people in the NASA History Office deserve credit. M. Louise Alstork painstakingly edited the essays and proofread all the documents. Jane Odom, Colin Fries, and John Hargenrader helped track down documents from our Historical Reference Collection. Nadine Andreassen provided much valuable general assistance and helped with the distribution. In the Office of Aerospace Technology, Tony Springer served as an invaluable sounding board on technical aeronautics issues. We also owe a special debt to Roger D. Launius, the former NASA Chief Historian, who provided the initial impetus and guidance for this worthy project.
At Headquarters Printing and Design Office, several individuals deserve praise for their roles in turning a manuscript into a finished book. Anne Marson did a careful job in copyediting a lengthy and detailed manuscript. Melissa Kennedy, a graphic designer, performed her craft in an exemplary manner. Jeffrey McLean and David Dixon expertly handled the physical printing of this book. Thanks are due to all these devoted professionals.
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