According to Spaceflight Now, the House of Representatives, in one of the last acts of the current sessions besides passing the fiscal cliff bill, has voted to rename NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center after the late Neil Armstrong.
Renaming bill passes 404 to zero in the House
The bill to rename NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base in California, was offered by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and was cosponsored by Reps. Ken Calvert, Buck McKeon, Dana Rohrabacher and Adam Schiff of California, Ralph Hall and Lamar Smith of Texas, and Steven Palazzo of Mississippi. The bill renames the facility to the Neil A. Armstrong Fight Research Center. The test range will be redesignated the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range after the aeronautical pioneer, according to Spaceflight Now. While the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House, it has yet to be taken up by the Senate, not to mention being signed into law by the president.
Dryden provides facilities for testing aircraft
According to NASA, Dryden, located in the California desert, is the space agency's primary facility for flight research and operations. NASA, besides conducting space exploration, is charged with research and development of aircraft systems, hence the name National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dryden has also served as the alternate landing site for the space shuttle, which normally landed at the Kennedy Space Center throughout most of its operating life. Currently the flight abort system for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is being tested at Dryden. The facility is also being used to operate the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) program -- a flying telescope aboard a Boeing 747.
Why Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong, who passed away in August, is best known for having been the first man to walk on the moon. NASA points out that Armstrong served as a test pilot for the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the space agency's predecessor, from 1955 to 1962, when he became an official astronaut. Part of his duties was flying the X-15, a research rocket plane, at the facility that would be eventually named after Dryden, as well as a number of other aircraft. McCarthy cited this phase in Armstrong's career, which included 2,400 hours of flight time. Armstrong also helped to provide the conception for the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle that eventually led to a training vehicle that he and other Apollo astronauts used to practice landing on the moon.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.