NACA Inspections

Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory


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The Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory's October 7 to 10, 1957, Inspection event took place at the literal onset of the space age. Lewis had been working on rocket propulsion and missile aerodynamic issues since the mid-1940s and was already pursuing electric propulsion for space. By the mid-1950s the efforts to develop high-energy propellants, particularly liquid hydrogen, were producing real results. Although Lewis was also unveiling its new Rocket Engine Test Facility, the NACA was wary of overstepping its aeronautical mandate by discussing space work at the Inspection.

On Thursday October 3, NACA Secretary John Victory led a group from Headquarters through the final dress rehearsals. Victory interjected when references to space flight were mentioned. Victory ordered the frustrated researchers to strike those lines from their talks so as not to offend the visiting Congressional representatives. The next evening the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. When the Inspection began on Monday morning, the original talks were in place, and the guests praised Lewis for its readiness for the space race.

The tour stops included an extensive description of its high-energy rocket propellants work. There were also new aeronautics efforts dealing with nuclear propulsion, hypersonic flight, noise abatement, and high-energy fuels. Over 1700 guests attended the Inspection. Wilson Hunter supervised the preparations. The event was followed by an Employees Day Friday afternoon and a Family Day on Sunday. The 1957 event was Lewis's last Inspection for nearly a decade.