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Theodore von Karman, NASA history collection

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Theodore von Karman, NASA history collection

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Full Description: (c. 1950)Dr. Theodore von Karman, co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Pasadena, California was an aeronautical theoretician. He was the first winner of the prestigious U.S. Medal of Science presented to him by President John F. Kennedy. As well as being co-founder of JPL, he also was principal founder of a major rocket propulsion firm (Aerojet-General Corp.), the top science advisor to the U.S. Air Force during its transition to jet propulsion aircraft and the top science advisor to NATO...He was the head of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) in Pasadena, California. Under his guidance, Caltech's 10 foot wind tunnel was designed, built and operated. Industry firms such as Douglas, Northrop, Hughes, Lockheed, North American, Vultee and Consolidated all tested new aeronautical designs and concepts in GALCIT's tunnel. Even Boeing's own high-speed wind tunnel was heavily influenced by suggestions from von Karman. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) became so concerned about GALCIT's growing influence over West coast aviation, it erected the Ames Laboratory in Sunnyvale, California in part to deter an ever widening aeronautical gap that had formed between NACA and GALCIT. From 1936 to 1940, Caltech stood alone as the only university-based rocket research center. Other institutions of higher learning dismissed such research as 'fantastical' and left such endeavors to visionaries like Robert Goddard. ..Foundational theoretical research by Von Karman gave rise to the first successful solid-fuel rocket engine firings. This led to federal funding for studies that lead to a form of aircraft rocket propulsion called Jet Assisted Take-Off or (JATO). Success in this endeavor led to von Karman establishing two more highly regarded institutions; both originally dedicated to rocketry: the Aerojet Engineering Company and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The last years of his life were spent in Paris, his favorite city. He organized in Paris the NATO Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development (AGARD), which investigated such disciplines as propulsion, aerodynamics and electronics. ..Identifier GPN-2000-001500

NASA Photo Collection

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1950
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