The Dryden Flight Research Center, NASA's premier installation for aeronautical flight research, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996. Dryden is the "Center of Excellence" for atmospheric flight operations. The Center's charter is to research, develop, verify, and transfer advanced aeronautics, space and related technologies. It is located at Edwards, Calif., on the western edge of the Mojave Desert, 80 miles north of Los Angeles.
On March 1, 2014, the facility was renamed in honor of Neil Armstrong, a former test pilot at the center and the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon. The center was previously known as the Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) from March 26, 1976, in honor of Hugh L. Dryden, a prominent aeronautical engineer who at the time of his death in 1965 was NASA's deputy administrator. It has also previously been known as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Muroc Flight Test Unit (1945), the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station (1949), the NACA High-Speed Flight Station (1954), the NASA High-Speed Flight Station (1958) and the NASA Flight Research Center (1959).
Armstrong Flight Research Center was also the home of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747 designed to carry a Space Shuttle orbiter back to Kennedy Space Center if one landed at Edwards.
Until 2004, Armstrong Flight Research Center operated the oldest B-52 Stratofortress bomber, a B-52B model (tail number 008) which had been converted to drop test aircraft, dubbed 'Balls 8.' It dropped a large number of supersonic test vehicles, ranging from the X-15 to its last research program, the hypersonic X-43A, powered by a Pegasus rocket. The aircraft was retired and is currently on display near the North Gate of Edwards.