Robert H. Goddard
Overview
 
Robert Hutchings Goddard (October 5, 1882 – August 10, 1945) was an American professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

, physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world's first liquid-fueled rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

, which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926. Goddard and his team launched 34 rockets between 1926 and 1941, achieving altitudes as high as 2.6 km (1.6 mi) and speeds as high as 885 km/h (550 mph).

As both theorist and engineer, Goddard's work anticipated many of the developments that made spaceflight possible.
Encyclopedia
Robert Hutchings Goddard (October 5, 1882 – August 10, 1945) was an American professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

, physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world's first liquid-fueled rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

, which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926. Goddard and his team launched 34 rockets between 1926 and 1941, achieving altitudes as high as 2.6 km (1.6 mi) and speeds as high as 885 km/h (550 mph).

As both theorist and engineer, Goddard's work anticipated many of the developments that made spaceflight possible. Two of Goddard's 214 patents — one for a multi-stage rocket design (1914), and another for a liquid-fuel rocket design (1914) — are regarded as important milestones toward spaceflight. His 1919 monograph, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, is considered one of the classic texts of 20th century rocket science. Goddard successfully applied three-axis control, gyroscopes and steerable thrust
Thrust vectoring
Thrust vectoring, also thrust vector control or TVC, is the ability of an aircraft, rocket or other vehicle to manipulate the direction of the thrust from its engine or motor in order to control the attitude or angular velocity of the vehicle....

 to rockets, all of which allow rockets to be controlled effectively in flight.

Goddard received little public support for his research during his lifetime. Though his work in the field was revolutionary, he was sometimes ridiculed in the press for his theories concerning spaceflight. As a result, he became protective of his privacy and his work. Years after his death, at the dawn of the Space Age
Space Age
The Space Age is a time period encompassing the activities related to the Space Race, space exploration, space technology, and the cultural developments influenced by these events. The Space Age is generally considered to have begun with Sputnik...

, he came to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry. He was the first not only to recognize the scientific potential of missile
Missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

s and space travel
Space travel
Space travel can refer to:*Spaceflight, the use of space technology to fly a spacecraft into and through outer space, which may include:*Spacefaring, capability of and activity in the art of spaceborn travel.*Human spaceflight...

 but also to bring about the design and construction of the rockets needed to implement those ideas.

Early life and inspiration

Goddard was born in 1882 in Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population is 181,045, making it the second largest city in New England after Boston....

, to Nahum Danford Goddard (1859–1928) and Fannie Louise Hoyt (1864–1920). Robert was their only child to survive; a younger son, Richard Henry, was born with a spinal deformity, and died before his first birthday.

Childhood experiments

With the introduction of electric power in American cities in the 1880s, the young Goddard became interested in science. When his father showed him how to generate static electricity on the family's carpet, the five-year-old's imagination was inspired. Robert experimented, believing he could jump higher if the zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

 in batteries could somehow be charged with static electricity. Goddard halted the experiments after a warning from his mother that if he succeeded, he could "go sailing away and might not be able to come back."

Goddard's father further encouraged Robert's scientific interest by providing him with a telescope, a microscope, and a subscription to Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

. Robert developed a fascination with flight, first with kites and then with balloons. He became a thorough diarist and documenter of his work, a skill that would greatly benefit his later career. These interests merged at age 16, when Goddard attempted to construct a balloon out of aluminum, shaping the raw metal in his home workshop. After nearly five weeks of methodical, documented efforts, he finally abandoned the project, remarking, "Failior [sic] crowns enterprise." However, the lesson of this failure did not restrain Goddard's growing determination and confidence in his work.

The cherry tree dream

He became interested in space when he read H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells
Herbert George Wells was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games...

' science fiction classic The War of the Worlds when he was 16 years old. His dedication to pursuing rocketry became fixed on October 19, 1899. The 17-year-old Goddard climbed a cherry tree to cut off dead limbs. He was transfixed by the sky, and his imagination grew. He later wrote:
For the rest of his life he observed October 19 as "Anniversary Day", a private commemoration of the day of his greatest inspiration.

Education and early studies

The young Goddard was a thin and frail boy, almost always in fragile health. He suffered from stomach problems, colds and bronchitis, and fell two years behind his classmates. He became a voracious reader, regularly visiting the local public library to borrow books on the physical sciences.

Aerodynamics and motion

Goddard's interest in aerodynamics led him to study some of Samuel Langley's scientific papers in the periodical Smithsonian
Smithsonian (magazine)
Smithsonian is the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The first issue was published in 1970.-History:...

. In these papers, Langley wrote that birds flap their wings with different force on each side to turn in the air. Inspired by these articles, the teenage Goddard watched swallows and chimney swifts from the porch of his home, noting how subtly the birds moved their wings to control their flight. He noted how remarkably the birds controlled their flight with their tail feathers — Goddard called these the birds' equivalent of 'ailerons.' He took exception to some of Langley's conclusions, and in 1901 wrote a letter to St. Nicholas magazine with his own ideas. The editor of St. Nicholas declined to publish Goddard's letter, remarking that birds fly with a certain amount of intelligence and that "machines will not act with such intelligence." Goddard disagreed, believing that a man could control a flying machine with his own intelligence.

Around this time, Goddard read Newton's
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 Principia Mathematica, and found that Newton's Third Law of Motion
Newton's laws of motion
Newton's laws of motion are three physical laws that form the basis for classical mechanics. They describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and its motion due to those forces...

 applied to motion in space. He wrote later about his own tests of the Law:

Academics

As his health improved, Goddard continued his formal schooling as an 18-year-old sophomore at South High School in Worcester in 1901. He excelled in his coursework, and his peers twice elected him class president. At his graduation ceremony in 1904, he gave his class oration as valedictorian
Valedictorian
Valedictorian is an academic title conferred upon the student who delivers the closing or farewell statement at a graduation ceremony. Usually, the valedictorian is the highest ranked student among those graduating from an educational institution...

. In his speech, titled On Taking Things for Granted, Goddard included a section that would become emblematic of his life:

[J]ust as in the sciences we have learned that we are too ignorant safely to pronounce anything impossible, so for the individual, since we cannot know just what are his limitations, we can hardly say with certainty that anything is necessarily within or beyond his grasp. Each must remember that no one can predict to what heights of wealth, fame, or usefulness he may rise until he has honestly endeavored, and he should derive courage from the fact that all sciences have been, at some time, in the same condition as he, and that it has often proved true that the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.


Goddard enrolled at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a private university located in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States.Founded in 1865 in Worcester, WPI was one of the United States' first engineering and technology universities...

 in 1904. He quickly impressed the head of the physics department, A. Wilmer Duff, with his thirst for knowledge, and Professor Duff took him on as a laboratory assistant and tutor. At WPI, Goddard joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Sigma Alpha Epsilon is a North American Greek-letter social college fraternity founded at the University of Alabama on March 9, 1856. Of all existing national social fraternities today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only one founded in the Antebellum South...

 fraternity, and began a long courtship with high school classmate Miriam Olmstead, an honor student who had graduated with Goddard as salutatorian
Salutatorian
Salutatorian is an academic title given, in the United States and Canada, to the second highest graduate of the entire graduating class of a specific discipline. Only the valedictorian is ranked higher. This honor is traditionally based on grade point average and number of credits taken, but...

. Eventually, she and Goddard were engaged, but they drifted apart and ended the engagement around 1909.

Goddard received his B.S.
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

 degree in physics from Worcester Polytechnic in 1908, and after serving there for a year as an instructor in physics, he began his graduate studies at Clark University
Clark University
Clark University is a private research university and liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts.Founded in 1887, it is the oldest educational institution founded as an all-graduate university. Clark now also educates undergraduates...

 in Worcester in the fall of 1909. Goddard received his M.A.
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 degree in physics from Clark University in 1910, and then stayed at Clark to complete his Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 degree in physics in 1911. He spent another year at Clark as an honorary fellow in physics, and in 1912, he accepted a research fellowship at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

's Palmer Physical Laboratory.

First scientific writings

While still an undergraduate, Goddard wrote a paper proposing a method for "balancing aeroplanes." He submitted the idea to Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

, which published the paper in 1907. Goddard later wrote in his diaries that he believed his paper was the first proposal of a way to automatically stabilize aircraft in flight. His proposal came around the same time as other scientists were making breakthroughs in developing functional gyroscope
Gyroscope
A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum. In essence, a mechanical gyroscope is a spinning wheel or disk whose axle is free to take any orientation...

s.

His first writing on the possibility of a liquid-fueled rocket came on February 2, 1909. Goddard had begun to study ways of increasing a rocket's efficiency using methods differing from conventional, powder rockets. He wrote in his journal about using liquid hydrogen as a fuel with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer. He believed a 50 percent efficiency could be achieved with liquid fuel.

First patents

In the decades around 1910, radio was a new technology, a fertile field for innovation. In 1911, while working at Clark University, Goddard investigated the effects of radio waves on insulators. In order to generate radio-frequency power, he invented a vacuum tube that operated like a cathode-ray tube. was issued on November 2, 1915. This was the first use of a vacuum tube to amplify a signal, preceding even Lee de Forest
Lee De Forest
Lee De Forest was an American inventor with over 180 patents to his credit. De Forest invented the Audion, a vacuum tube that takes relatively weak electrical signals and amplifies them. De Forest is one of the fathers of the "electronic age", as the Audion helped to usher in the widespread use...

's claim.

By 1913 he had in his spare time, using calculus, developed the mathematics which allowed him to calculate the position and velocity of a rocket in vertical flight, given the weight of the rocket and weight of the propellant and the velocity of the exhaust gases. His first goal was to build a sounding rocket with which to study the atmosphere. He was very reluctant to admit that his ultimate goal was in fact to develop a vehicle for flights into space since most scientists, in the United States especially, did not consider such a goal to be a realistic or practical scientific pursuit, and the public was not yet ready to seriously consider such ideas as well.

Unfortunately, in early 1913, Goddard became seriously ill with tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 and had to leave his position at Princeton. He then returned to Worcester, where he began a prolonged process of recovery.

It was during this period of recuperation, however, that Goddard began to produce his most important work. As his symptoms subsided, he allowed himself to work an hour per day with his notes. He began to see the importance of his ideas as intellectual property, and thus began working to secure those ideas. In May 1913, he wrote concerning his first rocket applications. His father brought them to a patent firm in Worcester, who helped him to refine his ideas for patent consideration. Goddard's first patent application was submitted in October 1913.

In 1914, his first two landmark patents were accepted and registered. The first, , described a multi-stage rocket. The second, , described a rocket fueled with gasoline and liquid nitrous oxide. The two patents would eventually become important milestones in the history of rocketry.

Mid to late 1910s

In the fall of 1914, Goddard's health had improved, and he accepted a part-time position as an instructor and research fellow at Clark University.

His position at Clark allowed him to further his rocketry research. He ordered numerous supplies that could be used to build rocket prototypes for launch, and spent much of 1915 in preparation for his first tests.

Goddard's first test launch of a powder rocket came on an early evening in 1915 following his daytime classes at Clark. The launch was loud and bright enough to arouse the alarm of the campus janitor, and Goddard had to reassure him that his experiments, while being serious study, were also quite harmless. After this incident, Goddard took his experiments inside the physics lab to limit any disturbance.

At the Clark physics lab, Goddard conducted static tests of powder rockets to measure their thrust efficiency. He found his earlier estimates to be verified; powder rockets were only converting about 2 percent of their fuel into thrust. At this point he applied de Laval nozzle
De Laval nozzle
A de Laval nozzle is a tube that is pinched in the middle, making a carefully balanced, asymmetric hourglass-shape...

s, which were generally used with steam turbine engines, and the de Laval nozzles greatly improved thrust efficiency. By mid summer of 1915, Goddard had obtained an average thrust efficiency of 40 percent with nozzle velocities up to 6,730 feet per second.

Later that year, Goddard designed an elaborate experiment at the Clark physics lab to prove that a rocket would perform in a vacuum such as that in space. He believed it would, but the other scientists were not convinced. His experiment in fact demonstrated that a rocket's performance was actually decreased under atmospheric pressure.

From 1916 to 1917, Goddard built and tested experimental ion thrusters, which he thought might be used for propulsion in the near vacuum conditions of outer space. The small glass engines he built were tested at atmospheric pressure, where they generated a stream of ionized air.

Smithsonian Institution sponsorship

By 1916, the cost of Goddard's rocket research had become too much for his modest teaching salary to bear. He began to solicit potential sponsors for financial assistance, beginning with the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

, the National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

, and the Aero Club of America
Aero Club of America
The Aero Club of America was a social club formed in 1905 by Charles Glidden and others to promote aviation in America. It was the parent organization of numerous state chapters, the first being the Aero Club of New England. It thrived until 1923, when it transformed into the National Aeronautic...

.

In his letter to the Smithsonian in September 1916, Goddard claimed he had achieved a 63 percent thrust efficiency and a nozzle velocity of almost 8,000 feet per second. With these performance standards, he believed a rocket could lift a weight of one pound (0.45 kg) to a height of 232 miles (373.4 km) with an initial launch weight of only 89.6 pounds (40.64 kg).

The Smithsonian was interested, and asked Goddard to elaborate upon his initial inquiry. Goddard responded with a detailed manuscript he had already prepared, titled A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes.

In January 1917, the Smithsonian agreed to provide Goddard with a five-year grant totaling $5,000. Afterward, Clark was able to contribute $3,500 and the use of their physics lab to the project. Worcester Polytechnic Institute also allowed him to use its abandoned Magnetics Laboratory on the edge of campus during this time as a safe place for testing.

It wasn't until two years later, at the insistence of Arthur G. Webster, head of Clark's physics department, that Goddard arranged for the Smithsonian to publish his work.

While at Clark University, Goddard did research into solar power using a dish to concentrate the sun's rays on a machined piece of quartz that was sprayed with mercury which then heated water and drove a generator at the dish. Goddard believed his invention had overcome all the obstacles that had previously defeated other scientists and inventors and had his findings published in the November 1929 issue of Popular Science.

The 'Goddard rocket'

Not all of Goddard's early work was geared towards space travel. As the United States entered World War I in 1917, the country's universities began to lend their services to the war effort. Goddard believed his rocket research could be applied to many different military applications, including mobile artillery, field weapons and naval torpedo
Torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

es. He made proposals to the Navy and Army. No record exists of any interest by the Navy to Goddard's inquiry. However, Army Ordnance was quite interested, and Goddard met several times with Army personnel.

During this time, Goddard was also contacted by a civilian industrialist in Worcester about the possibility of manufacturing rockets for the military. However, as the businessman's enthusiasm grew, so did Goddard's suspicion. Talks eventually broke down as Goddard began to fear his work might be appropriated by the business.

Goddard proposed to the Army an idea for a tube rocket launcher as a light infantry weapon. The launcher concept became the precursor to the bazooka
Bazooka
Bazooka is the common name for a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the U.S. Army. Also referred to as the "Stovepipe", the innovative bazooka was amongst the first-generation of rocket propelled anti-tank weapons used in infantry combat...

. The Rocket-Powered Recoil-free Weapon was the brainchild of Dr. Goddard as a side project (under Army contract) of his work on rocket propulsion. Goddard, during his tenure
Tenure
Tenure commonly refers to life tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause.-19th century:...

 at Clark University
Clark University
Clark University is a private research university and liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts.Founded in 1887, it is the oldest educational institution founded as an all-graduate university. Clark now also educates undergraduates...

, and working at Mount Wilson Observatory
Mount Wilson Observatory
The Mount Wilson Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The MWO is located on Mount Wilson, a 5,715 foot peak in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles...

 for security reasons, designed a tube-fired rocket for military use during World War I. He and his co-worker, Dr. Clarence Hickman, successfully demonstrated his rocket to the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground is a United States Army facility located near Aberdeen, Maryland, . Part of the facility is a census-designated place , which had a population of 3,116 at the 2000 census.- History :...

, Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, on November 6, 1918 using a music rack for a launch platform, but the Compiègne Armistice
Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender...

 was signed only five days later, further development was discontinued as World War I ended.

The delay in the development of the bazooka was as a result of Goddard's serious bout with tuberculosis. Goddard continued to be a part-time consultant to the U.S. Government at Indian Head, Maryland
Indian Head, Maryland
Indian Head is a town in Charles County, Maryland, United States. The population was 3,422 at the 2000 census. It has been the site of a naval base specializing in gun and rocket propellants since 1890. Production of nitrocellulose and smokeless powder began at the Indian Head Powder Factory in 1900...

, until 1923, but soon turned his focus to other projects involving rocket propulsion.

Later, a former Clark University researcher, Dr. C. N. Hickman, continued Goddard's work on the bazooka, leading to the weapon used in World War II and to many other powerful rocket weapons.

A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes

In 1919, the Smithsonian Institution published Goddard's groundbreaking work, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. The report describes Goddard's mathematical theories of rocket flight, his experiments with solid-fuel rockets, and the possibilities he saw of exploring the earth's atmosphere and beyond. Along with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was an Imperial Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory. Along with his followers the German Hermann Oberth and the American Robert H. Goddard, he is considered to be one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics...

's earlier work, , Goddard's little book is regarded as one of the pioneering works of the science of rocketry. It was distributed worldwide.

Goddard described extensive experiments with solid-fuel rocket engines burning high grade nitrocellulose smokeless powder
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

. A critical breakthrough was the use of the steam turbine nozzle invented by the Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval
Gustaf de Laval
Karl Gustaf Patrik de Laval was a Swedish engineer and inventor who made important contributions to the design of steam turbines and dairy machinery.-Life:De Laval was born at Orsa in Dalarna...

. The de Laval nozzle
De Laval nozzle
A de Laval nozzle is a tube that is pinched in the middle, making a carefully balanced, asymmetric hourglass-shape...

 allows the most efficient ("isentropic") conversion of the energy of hot gases into forward motion. By means of this nozzle, Goddard increased the efficiency of his rocket engines from 2 percent to 64 percent and obtained supersonic exhaust speeds of over Mach 7.

Though most of this work dealt with the theoretical and experimental relations between propellant, rocket mass, thrust and velocity, a final section titled Calculation of minimum mass required to raise one pound to an "infinite" altitude discussed the possible uses of rockets, not only to reach the upper atmosphere, but to escape from Earth's gravitation altogether
Escape velocity
In physics, escape velocity is the speed at which the kinetic energy plus the gravitational potential energy of an object is zero gravitational potential energy is negative since gravity is an attractive force and the potential is defined to be zero at infinity...

. Included as a thought experiment
Thought experiment
A thought experiment or Gedankenexperiment considers some hypothesis, theory, or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences...

 was the idea of launching a rocket to the moon and igniting a mass of flash powder on its surface, so as to be visible through a telescope. He discussed the matter seriously, down to an estimate of the amount of powder required; Goddard's conclusion was that a rocket with starting mass of 3.21 tons could produce a flash "just visible" from Earth.

Goddard eschewed publicity, because he did not have time to reply to criticism of his work, and his imaginative ideas about space travel were shared only with private groups he trusted. He did, though, publish and talk about the rocket principle and sounding rockets, since these subjects were not too "far out." In a letter to the Smithsonian dated March 1920, he discussed: photographing the Moon and planets from rocket-powered flyby probes, sending messages to distant civilizations on inscribed metal plates, the use of solar energy in space, and the idea of high-velocity ion propulsion. In that same letter, Goddard clearly describes the concept of the ablative heat shield, suggesting the landing apparatus be covered with "layers of a very infusible hard substance with layers of a poor heat conductor between" designed to erode in the same way as the surface of a meteor.

Publicity and criticism

The publication of Goddard's document gained him national attention from U.S. newspapers, most of it negative. Although Goddard's discussion of targeting the moon was only a small part of the work as a whole and was intended as an illustration of the possibilities rather than a declaration of Goddard's intent, the papers sensationalized his ideas to the point of misrepresentation and ridicule. Even the Smithsonian had to abstain from publicity because of the amount of ridiculous correspondence they received from the general public.

On January 12, 1920 a front-page story in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, "Believes Rocket Can Reach Moon", reported a Smithsonian press release about a "multiple charge high efficiency rocket." The chief application seen was "the possibility of sending recording apparatus to moderate and extreme altitudes within the earth's atmosphere", the advantage over balloon-carried instruments being ease of recovery since "the new rocket apparatus would go straight up and come straight down." But it also mentioned a proposal "to [send] to the dark part of the new moon a sufficiently large amount of the most brilliant flash powder which, in being ignited on impact, would be plainly visible in a powerful telescope. This would be the only way of proving that the rocket had really left the attraction of the earth as the apparatus would never come back."

The New York Times editorial

On January 13, the day after its front page story about Goddard's rocket, an unsigned New York Times editorial scoffed at the proposal. The article initially expressed skepticism about the prospect of carrying meteorological instruments on a rocket:
It is not obvious, however, that the instruments would return to the point of departure. . . .for parachutes drift just as balloons do. And the rocket, or what was left of it after the last explosion, would need to be aimed with amazing skill, and in a dead calm, to fall on the spot whence it started. But that is a slight inconvenience. . . .though it might be serious enough from the [standpoint] of the always innocent bystander. . . .a few thousand yards from the firing line.

The article pressed further on Goddard's proposal to launch rockets beyond the atmosphere:
[A]fter the rocket quits our air and really starts on its longer journey it will neither be accelerated nor maintained by the explosion of the charges it then might have left. To claim that it would be is to deny a fundamental law of dynamics, and only Dr. Einstein and his chosen dozen, so few and fit, are licensed to do that.

Finally, the Times pounced. It assumed, wrongly, that Goddard's understanding of Newton's laws was flawed:
That Professor Goddard with his "chair" in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action and reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react—to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.


Unbeknownst to the Times, thrust is possible in a vacuum.

Aftermath

A week after the New York Times editorial, Goddard released a signed statement to the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

, attempting to restore reason to what had become a sensational story:
Too much attention has been concentrated on the proposed flash pow[d]er experiment, and too little on the exploration of the atmosphere. . . . Whatever interesting possibilities there may be of the method that has been proposed, other than the purpose for which it was intended, no one of them could be undertaken without first exploring the atmosphere.


In 1924, Goddard published an article "How my speed rocket can propel itself in vacuum" in Popular Science
Popular Science
Popular Science is an American monthly magazine founded in 1872 carrying articles for the general reader on science and technology subjects. Popular Science has won over 58 awards, including the ASME awards for its journalistic excellence in both 2003 and 2004...

that explained the physics and gave details of the vacuum experiments he had performed to prove the theory. However, even so, after one of Goddard's experiments in 1929, a local Worcester newspaper carried the mocking headline "Moon rocket misses target by 238,799 miles."

As a result of harsh criticism from the media and from other scientists, and understanding better than most the military applications for which foreign powers could use this technology, Goddard became increasingly suspicious of others and often worked alone, which limited the impact of his work. Another limiting factor was the lack of support from the American government, military and academia as to the study of the atmosphere, near space and military applications. As Germany became ever more war-like, he refused to communicate with German rocket experimenters, though he received more and more correspondence from them.

'A Correction'

Forty-nine years after its editorial mocking Goddard, on July 17, 1969 — the day after the launch of Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

 — The New York Times published a short item under the headline "A Correction." The three-paragraph statement summarized its 1920 editorial, and concluded:
Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

First liquid-fueled flight

Goddard began experimenting with liquid oxygen
Liquid oxygen
Liquid oxygen — abbreviated LOx, LOX or Lox in the aerospace, submarine and gas industries — is one of the physical forms of elemental oxygen.-Physical properties:...

 and liquid-fueled rockets in September 1921, and tested the first liquid-fueled engine in November 1923. It had a cylindrical combustion chamber
Combustion chamber
A combustion chamber is the part of an engine in which fuel is burned.-Internal combustion engine:The hot gases produced by the combustion occupy a far greater volume than the original fuel, thus creating an increase in pressure within the limited volume of the chamber...

, using impinging jets to mix and atomize liquid oxygen and gasoline
Gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

.

In 1924–25, Goddard had problems developing a high-pressure piston pump
Piston pump
A piston pump is a type of positive displacement pump where the high-pressure seal reciprocates with the piston. Piston pumps can be used to move liquids or compress gases.-Types:* Axial piston pump* Radial piston pump...

 to send fuel to the combustion chamber. He wanted to scale up the experiments, but his funding would not allow such growth. He decided to forgo the pumps and use a system applying back pressure
Back pressure
Back pressure refers to the resistance to a moving fluid by obstructions or tight bends in the confinement vessel along which it is moving, such as piping or air vents, against its direction of flow....

 from an inert gas
Inert gas
An inert gas is a non-reactive gas used during chemical synthesis, chemical analysis, or preservation of reactive materials. Inert gases are selected for specific settings for which they are functionally inert since the cost of the gas and the cost of purifying the gas are usually a consideration...

.

On December 6, 1925, he tested the simpler back-pressure system. Goddard conducted a static test on the firing stand at the Clark University physics laboratory. The engine successfully lifted its own weight in a 27 second test in the static rack. It was a major success for Goddard, proving that a liquid fuel rocket was possible. The test moved Goddard an important step closer to launching a rocket with liquid fuel.

Goddard conducted an additional test in December, and two more in January 1926. After that, Goddard began preparing for a possible launch of the rocket system.

First flight

Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled (gasoline and liquid oxygen) rocket on March 16, 1926, in Auburn, Massachusetts
Auburn, Massachusetts
Auburn is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 16,188 at the 2010 census.- History :Auburn was first settled in 1789 and was officially incorporated in 1808 as the town of Ward, in honor of American Revolution General Artemas Ward...

. Present at the launch were Goddard's crew chief Henry Sachs, Esther Goddard, and Percy Roope, who was Clark's assistant professor in the physics department. Goddard's diary entry of the event was notable for its understatement:

March 16. Went to Auburn with S[achs] in am. E[sther] and Mr. Roope came out at 1 p.m. Tried rocket at 2.30. It rose 41 feet & went 184 feet, in 2.5 secs., after the lower half of the nozzle burned off. Brought materials to lab. . . .


His diary entry the next day elaborated:

March 17, 1926. The first flight with a rocket using liquid propellants was made yesterday at Aunt Effie's farm in Auburn. . . .


Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until it cleared the frame, and then at express train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate.


The rocket, which was dubbed "Nell", rose just 41 feet during a 2.5-second flight that ended 184 feet away in a cabbage field, but it was an important demonstration that liquid propellants were possible. The launch site is now a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

, the Goddard Rocket Launching Site
Goddard Rocket Launching Site
The Goddard Rocket Launching Site is a National Historic Landmark commemorating the launch site of the world's first successful liquid-fueled rocket. It is located at 20 Upland Street, Auburn, Massachusetts, within the Pakachoag Golf Course. The actual launch site is indicated with two markers...

.

Viewers familiar with more modern rocket designs may find it difficult to distinguish the rocket from its launching apparatus in the well-known picture of "Nell". The complete rocket is significantly taller than Goddard, but does not include the pyramidal support structure which he is grasping. The rocket's combustion chamber
Combustion chamber
A combustion chamber is the part of an engine in which fuel is burned.-Internal combustion engine:The hot gases produced by the combustion occupy a far greater volume than the original fuel, thus creating an increase in pressure within the limited volume of the chamber...

 is the small cylinder at the top; the nozzle
Nozzle
A nozzle is a device designed to control the direction or characteristics of a fluid flow as it exits an enclosed chamber or pipe via an orifice....

 is visible beneath it. The fuel tank, which is also part of the rocket, is the larger cylinder opposite Goddard's torso. The fuel tank is directly beneath the nozzle, and is protected from the motor's exhaust by an asbestos
Asbestos
Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals used commercially for their desirable physical properties. They all have in common their eponymous, asbestiform habit: long, thin fibrous crystals...

 cone. Asbestos-wrapped aluminum tubes connect the motor to the tanks, providing both support and fuel transport. This layout is no longer used, since the experiment showed that this was no more stable
Pendulum Rocket Fallacy
Pendulum rocket fallacy is a common fundamental misunderstanding of the mechanics of rocket flight and how rockets remain on a stable trajectory. The first liquid-fuel rocket, constructed by Robert Goddard in 1926, differed significantly from modern rockets in that the rocket engine was at the top...

 than placing the rocket engine at the base. By May, after a series of modifications to simplify the plumbing, the engine was placed in the now classic position, at the lower end of the rocket. This was just ten years after colonel Ivan Platonovich Grave
Ivan Grave
Ivan Platonovich Grave was a Russian and Soviet scientist in the field of artillery, Doctor of Technical Sciences , professor , member of the Academy of Artillery Sciences , Major General of the Engineer Corps .Ivan Grave graduated from the Mikhailovskoye Artillery School...

's first launch in 1916 (patent in 1924).

Lindbergh and Goddard

After a launch of one of Goddard's rockets in July 1929 again gained the attention of the newspapers, Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...

 learned of his work. At the time, Lindbergh had begun to wonder what would become of aviation
Aviation
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

 in the distant future, and had settled on rocket flight as a probable next step. He contacted Goddard in November 1929. The professor met the aviator soon after in Goddard's office at Clark University. Upon meeting Goddard, Lindbergh was immediately impressed by his research, and Goddard was similarly impressed by the flier's interest. He discussed his work openly with Lindbergh, forming an alliance that would last for the rest of his life. This is an example, when many wanted to take advantage of him or deemed him a "nut", of Goddard's complete openness with those who shared his dream and that he felt he could trust.

By late 1929, Goddard had been attracting additional notoriety with each rocket launch. He was finding it increasingly difficult to conduct his research without unwanted distractions. Lindbergh discussed finding additional financing for Goddard's work, and put his famous name to work for Goddard. Into 1930, Lindbergh made several proposals to industry and private investors for funding, which proved all but impossible to find following the recent U.S. stock market crash
Wall Street Crash of 1929
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 , also known as the Great Crash, and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its fallout...

 in October 1929.

Guggenheim sponsorship

In the spring of 1930, Lindbergh finally found an ally in the Guggenheim family
Guggenheim family
The Guggenheim family is an American family, of Swiss Jewish ancestry. Beginning with Meyer Guggenheim, who arrived in America in 1847, the family were known for their global successes in mining and smelting . During the 19th century, the family possessed one of the largest fortunes in the world...

. Financier Daniel Guggenheim
Daniel Guggenheim
Daniel Guggenheim was an American industrialist and philanthropist, and a son of Meyer Guggenheim.-Biography:...

 agreed to fund Goddard's research over the next four years for a total of $100,000 (~$ today). The Guggenheim family, especially Harry Guggenheim, would continue to support Goddard's work in the years to come. The Goddards soon moved to Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell is a city in and the county seat of Chaves County in the southeastern quarter of the state of New Mexico, United States. The population was 48,366 at the 2010 census. It is a center for irrigation farming, dairying, ranching, manufacturing, distribution, and petroleum production. It is also...

.

Because of the military potential of the rocket, Goddard, Lindbergh, Harry Guggenheim, the Smithsonian Institution and others tried before World War II to convince the Army and Navy of its value. Goddard's services were offered, but there was no interest, initially. Two young imaginative officers eventually got the services to attempt to contract with Goddard just prior to the war. The Navy beat the Army and secured his services to build liquid-fueled rockets for jet assisted take-off of aircraft. These rockets were the precursors to some of the large rocket engines that launched the space age.

Roswell, New Mexico

With new financial backing, Goddard eventually relocated to Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell is a city in and the county seat of Chaves County in the southeastern quarter of the state of New Mexico, United States. The population was 48,366 at the 2010 census. It is a center for irrigation farming, dairying, ranching, manufacturing, distribution, and petroleum production. It is also...

 in 1930, where he worked with his team of technicians in near isolation and secrecy for a dozen years. Here they would not endanger anyone, would not be bothered by the curious, and experienced a more moderate climate (which was also better for Goddard's health).

By September 1931, his rockets had the now familiar appearance of a smooth casing and tail fins. He began experimenting with gyroscopic
Gyroscope
A gyroscope is a device for measuring or maintaining orientation, based on the principles of angular momentum. In essence, a mechanical gyroscope is a spinning wheel or disk whose axle is free to take any orientation...

 guidance and made an unsuccessful flight test of such a system in April 1932. A gyroscope mounted on gimbals electrically controlled steering vanes in the exhaust, similar to the system used by the German V-2
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

 over 10 years later.

A temporary loss of funding from the Guggenheims forced Goddard to return to Clark University until 1934, when funding resumed. Upon his return to Roswell, he began work on his A series of rockets 4 to 4.5 meters long, powered by gasoline and liquid oxygen pressurized with nitrogen. The gyroscopic control system was housed in the middle of the rocket, between the propellant tanks. On March 28, 1935, the A-5 successfully flew to an altitude of 1.46 kilometers (0.91 mi; 4,800 ft) using his guidance system. This rocket also achieved supersonic velocity.

In 1936–1939, Goddard began work on the K and L series rockets, which were much more massive and designed to reach very high altitude. This work was plagued by trouble with engine burn-through. Goddard had built a regeneratively cooled engine, which circulated liquid oxygen around the outside of the combustion chamber, in 1923 but deemed the idea too complicated. He was therefore using fuel curtain cooling, spraying excess gasoline on the inside wall of the combustion chamber, but this was not working well, and the larger rockets failed. Returning to a smaller design again, the L-13 reached an altitude of 2.7 kilometers (1.7 mi; 8,900 ft), the highest of any of Goddard's rockets. Weight was reduced by using thin-walled fuel tanks wound with high tensile strength wire.

From 1940 to 1941, work was done on the P series of rockets, which used propellant turbopumps (also powered by gasoline and liquid oxygen). Higher fuel pressure permitted a more powerful engine, but two launches both ended in crashes after reaching an altitude of only a few hundred feet. The turbopumps worked well, however.

Goddard was able to flight test many of his rockets; but many resulted in what the uninitiated would call failures because of engine malfunction or loss of control. Goddard did not consider them failures because he felt that he always learned something from a test. Most of his work involved static tests, which are a standard procedure today, before a flight test. Between 1930 and 1945, the following 31 rockets were launched:
Date Type Altitude in feet Altitude in metres Flight duration Notes
December 30, 1930 Goddard 4 2000 610 unknown record altitude
September 29, 1931 Goddard 4 180 55 9.6 s
October 13, 1931 Goddard 4 1700 520 unknown
October 27, 1931 Goddard 4 1330 410 unknown
April 19, 1932 - 135 41 5 s
February 16, 1935 A series 650 200 unknown
March 8, 1935 A series 1000 300 12 s
March 28, 1935 A series 4800 1460 20 s record altitude
May 31, 1935 A series 7500 2300 unknown record altitude
June 25, 1935 A series 120 37 10 s
July 12, 1935 A series 6600 2000 14 s
October 29, 1935 A series 4000 1220 12 s
July 31, 1936 L series, Section A 200 60 5 s
October 3, 1936 L-A 200 60 5 s
November 7, 1936 L-A 200 60 unknown
December 18, 1936 L series, Section B 3 1 unknown Veered horizontally immediately after launch
February 1, 1937 L-B 1870 570 20.5 s
February 27, 1937 L-B 1500 460 20 s
March 26, 1937 L-B 8000-9000 2500–2700 22.3 s Highest altitude achieved
April 22, 1937 L-B 6560 2000 21.5 s
May 19, 1937 L-B 3250 990 29.5 s
July 28, 1937 L-series, Section C 2055 630 28 s
August 26, 1937 L-C 2000 600 unknown
November 24, 1937 L-C 100 30 unknown
March 6, 1938 L-C 525 160 unknown
March 17, 1938 L-C 2170 660 15 s
April 20, 1938 L-C 4215 1260 25.3 s
May 26, 1938 L-C 140 40 unknown
August 9, 1938 L-C 4920 (visual)
3294 (barograph)
1500
1000
unknown
August 9, 1940 P-series, Section C 300 90 unknown
May 8, 1941 P-C 250 80 unknown

As an instrument for "reaching extreme altitudes", Goddard's rockets were not very successful; they did not achieve an altitude greater than 2.7 km (in 1937), at a time when airplanes could reach up to 15 km and balloons 22 km. By contrast, German rocket scientists had already achieved an altitude of 3.5 km with the A-2 rocket (in 1934), reached 12 km by 1939 with the A-5 and 84 km in 1942 with the A-4 (V-2
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

), reaching the outer limits of the atmosphere.

Goddard's pace was slower than the Germans' because he did not have the resources they did. But he was trying to perfect his rocket and the subsystems such as guidance and control so that it could achieve high altitudes without tumbling in the rare atmosphere and provide a stable vehicle for the experiments it would eventually carry. He was on the verge of building larger rockets to reach "extreme altitudes" when World War II intervened and changed the path of American history.

Though Goddard brought his work in rocketry to the attention of the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, he was rebuffed, since the Army largely failed to grasp the military application of large rockets.

German military intelligence had once paid attention to Goddard's work. An accredited military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 to the US, Friedrich von Boetticher, sent a four-page report in 1936, and the spy Gustav Guellich sent a mixture of facts and made-up information, claiming to have visited Roswell and witnessed a launch. But thereafter the Germans received very little information about Goddard.

The Soviet NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 had a spy in the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics. In 1935 she gave them a report Goddard had written for the Navy in 1933. It contained results of tests and flights and suggestions for military uses of his rockets. The NKVD considered this to be very valuable information. It provided few design details, but gave the Soviets the direction and progress of Goddard's work.

V-2

A frequently repeated story, launched by Goddard himself, declared that at the end of World War II Goddard saw the remnants of the German V-2 ballistic missile
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

 and was convinced that the Germans had stolen his work. Although Goddard did study a V-2, there is confusion as to how it was obtained and also just how influential Goddard had been on its design.

In the spring of 1945 Goddard saw a captured German V-2 ballistic missile which had been sent to the naval laboratory in Annapolis, Maryland, where Goddard had been working under contract. It is not out of the question that parts were despatched to Goddard in Annapolis, but there would not have been much time: Goddard died of throat cancer in August 1945.

One opinion, described in the May 1959 issue of Popular Science would have it that the V-2 which he inspected was wreckage retrieved from a test flight that had crashed in Sweden (the so-called Bäckebo Bomb). This wreckage had been analyzed and reconstructed by British (not US) engineers at Farnborough
Royal Aircraft Establishment
The Royal Aircraft Establishment , was a British research establishment, known by several different names during its history, that eventually came under the aegis of the UK Ministry of Defence , before finally losing its identity in mergers with other institutions.The first site was at Farnborough...

 from July 1944 as part of Project Big Ben
Project Big Ben
"Big Ben" was the World War II code name for the British project to reconstruct and evaluate captured German missiles such as the V-2 rocket. On July 31, 1944, after the UK agreed to exchange Supermarine Spitfires for the wreckage of a V-2 in Sweden during World War II, experts at Farnborough...

.

Another view is that this was not the wreckage from Sweden, but an unlaunched rocket that had been captured by the US Army from the Mittelwerk
Mittelwerk
Central Works was a World War II factory that used Mittelbau-Dora forced labor in 2 main tunnels in the Kohnstein. The underground facility produced V-2 rockets, V-1 flying bombs, and other Nazi weapons.-Mittelwerk GmbH:...

 factory in the Harz mountains. Samples captured here were first shipped back by Special Mission V-2 on 22 May 1945.

After a thorough inspection Goddard was convinced that the Germans had "stolen" his work. Though the design details were not the same, the basic design of the V-2 was similar to one of Goddard's rockets. The V-2, however, was technically far more advanced than the most successful of the rockets designed and tested by Goddard. The Peenemünde rocket group led by Wernher von Braun may have benefited from the pre-1939 contacts to a limited extent, but had also started from the work of their own space pioneer, Hermann Oberth
Hermann Oberth
Hermann Julius Oberth was an Austro-Hungarian-born German physicist and engineer. He is considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics.- Early life :...

; they also had the benefit of intensive state funding as a war project, large-scale production facilities (using slave labor), and repeated flight testing that allowed them to refine their designs.
Nonetheless, in 1963, von Braun, reflecting on the history of rocketry, said of Goddard: "His rockets...may have been rather crude by present-day standards, but they blazed the trail and incorporated many features used in our most modern rockets and space vehicles".

The official U.S. history comments that three features developed by Goddard earlier appeared in the V-2: (1) Pumps were used to inject fuel into the combustion chamber. (2) Gyroscopically controlled vanes in the nozzle stablized the rocket until external vanes in air could do so. (3) Excess alcohol was fed in so that a blanket of gas protected the motor from the combustion heat.

Goddard's secrecy

Goddard avoided sharing details of his work with other scientists, and preferred to work alone with his technicians. Frank Malina
Frank Malina
Frank Joseph Malina was an American aeronautical engineer and painter, especially known for becoming both a pioneer in the art world and the realm of scientific engineering.-Early life:...

, who was then studying rocketry at the California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...

, visited Goddard in August 1936. Goddard refused to discuss any of his research, other than that which had already been published in Liquid-Propellant Rocket Development. Theodore von Kármán
Theodore von Karman
Theodore von Kármán was a Hungarian-American mathematician, aerospace engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization...

, Malina's mentor at the time, was unhappy with Goddard's attitude and later wrote, "Naturally we at Caltech wanted as much information as we could get from Goddard for our mutual benefit. But Goddard believed in secrecy.... The trouble with secrecy is that one can easily go in the wrong direction and never know it." Goddard's concerns about secrecy led to criticism for failure to cooperate with other scientists and engineers.

By 1939, von Kármán's Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory
Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory
The Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology , was a research institute created in 1926, at first specializing in aeronautics research. In 1930, Hungarian scientist Theodore von Kármán accepted the directorship of the lab and emigrated to the United States. Under...

 at Caltech had received Army Air Corps funding to develop rockets to assist in aircraft take-off. Goddard learned of this in 1940, and openly expressed his displeasure. Malina could not understand why the Army did not arrange for an exchange of information between Goddard and Caltech, since both were under government contract at the same time. Goddard did not think he could be of that much help to Caltech because they were designing rockets with solid fuel and Goddard was using liquid fuels.

Goddard was concerned with avoiding the public criticism and ridicule he had faced in the 1920s, which he believed had harmed his professional reputation. Goddard also lacked interest in discussions with people who had less understanding of rocketry than he did, feeling that his time was extremely constrained. Goddard's health was frequently poor, as a result of his earlier bout of tuberculosis, and he was uncertain about how long he had to live. He felt, therefore, that he hadn't the time to spare arguing with other scientists and the press about his new field of research or helping all the amateur rocketeers who wrote to him.

Goddard spoke to professional groups, published articles and papers and patented his ideas; but while he discussed basic principles, he was unwilling to reveal the details of his designs until he had flown rockets to high altitudes and thus proven his theory. Goddard tended to avoid any mention of space flight, and spoke only of high altitude research, since he believed that other scientists regarded the subject as unscientific.

During the First and Second World Wars, Goddard offered his services, patents and technology to the military and made some significant contributions. Several young Army officers and some higher ranking ones believed Goddard's research was important, but were unable to generate funds for his work.

Toward the end of his life, Goddard, realizing he was no longer going to be able to make significant progress alone in his field, joined the American Rocket Society, became a director, and made plans to work in the budding aerospace industry.

Goddard was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1945, and died in August of that year in Baltimore, Maryland. He was buried in Hope Cemetery in his home town of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Patent settlement

The Guggenheim Foundation and Goddard's estate filed suit in 1951 against the U.S. government for prior infringement of Goddard's work. In 1960, the parties settled the suit, and the U.S. armed forces and NASA paid out an award of $1 million (half went to his wife), at that time the highest government settlement ever paid in a patent case.

The settlement amount was more than the total of all the grants disbursed for Goddard's work over his career.

Legacy

Goddard was credited with 214 patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

s for his work; 131 of these were awarded after his death.

The Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard Space Flight Center
The Goddard Space Flight Center is a major NASA space research laboratory established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center. GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors, and is located approximately northeast of Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. GSFC,...

, a NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 facility in Maryland, was established in 1959. The crater Goddard
Goddard (crater)
Goddard is a lunar crater that is located along the eastern limb of the Moon, and so is visible from the edge from Earth. It is best viewed during favorable librations when the orientation of the Moon brings it further into sight. The crater is located in the Mare Marginis, to the northeast of the...

 on the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 is also named in his honor.

On September 16, 1959, the U.S. Congress authorized the issuance of a gold medal in the honor of Professor Robert H. Goddard.

The Dr. Robert H. Goddard Collection and the Robert Goddard Exhibition Room are housed in the Archives and Special Collections area of Clark University's Robert H. Goddard Library
Robert H. Goddard Library
The Robert H. Goddard Library is the primary library of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States. The library was named after rocketeer Robert H. Goddard, who earned a M.A. and Ph.D. at Clark in the 1910s. The building was built in 1969 and remodeled in 2009. It was designed by...

. Outside the library lies a structure depicting the flight path of Goddard's first liquid fuel rocket.

The Chemical Engineering department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is housed in Goddard Hall.

Goddard's home town of Worcester established the Goddard School of Science and Technology, an elementary school, in 1992.
Robert H. Goddard High School
Goddard High School (New Mexico)
Robert H. Goddard High School or known as Goddard High School is a public senior high school in Roswell, New Mexico. It is a part of the Roswell Independent School District. Established in 1965, the school is named after Robert Hutchings Goddard. The colors of GHS are: Navy Blue, Columbia Blue and...

 was completed in 1965 in Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell is a city in and the county seat of Chaves County in the southeastern quarter of the state of New Mexico, United States. The population was 48,366 at the 2010 census. It is a center for irrigation farming, dairying, ranching, manufacturing, distribution, and petroleum production. It is also...

 and dedicated by Esther Goddard; the school's mascot is appropriately titled "Rockets".

The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program Goddard Achievement, corresponding to promotion to Cadet Chief Master Sergeant is named for him.

A small memorial with a statue of Goddard is located at the site where Goddard launched the first liquid-propelled rocket, now the Pakachoag golf course in Auburn, Massachusetts.

Goddard Auditorium is located on the Earlham College campus in Richmond, Indiana.

The problem of optimizing the altitude of a rocket under atmospheric drag and gravity is referred to as the Goddard problem
Goddard problem
In rocketry, the Goddard problem is to optimize the altitude of a rocket, ascending vertically, and taking into account atmospheric drag and the gravitational field. This was first posed by Robert H. Goddard in his 1919 publication, "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes"....

.

Release 13 of the Linux
Linux
Linux is a Unix-like computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open source software development and distribution. The defining component of any Linux system is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released October 5, 1991 by Linus Torvalds...

 distribution Fedora
Fedora (operating system)
Fedora is a RPM-based, general purpose collection of software, including an operating system based on the Linux kernel, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat...

 is named after Goddard.

Goddard is also mentioned in the last episode of the TV series Fullmetal Alchemist
Fullmetal Alchemist
, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after the European Industrial Revolution...

. The protagonist, Edward Elric
Edward Elric
, commonly nicknamed , is a fictional character and the main character of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga series created by Hiromu Arakawa. Edward, titled , is the youngest State Alchemist in the history of the fictional country of Amestris...

, shows interest in rocketry after reading Goddard's "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes" and decides to study rocketry with Hermann Oberth.

Jimmy Neutron has a robotic dog made of circuits, sprockets and several different widgets, and is named after Goddard.

Private life

On June 21, 1924, Goddard married Esther Christine Kisk (March 31, 1901 – June 4, 1982), a secretary in Clark University's President's office, whom he met in 1919. She had photographed some of his work as well as aided him in his experiments and paperwork, including accounting. After his death, she sorted out Goddard's papers and secured 131 additional patents on his work. The couple did not have children.

Media

Quotations

  • "It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." (From his high school
    High school
    High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

     graduation oration, "On Taking Things for Granted", June 1904)

  • "On the afternoon of October 19, 1899, I climbed a tall cherry tree and, armed with a saw which I still have, and a hatchet, started to trim the dead limbs from the cherry tree. It was one of the quiet, colorful afternoons of sheer beauty which we have in October in New England, and as I looked towards the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars
    Mars
    Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

    . I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended for existence at last seemed very purposive." (Written later, in an autobiographical sketch)

  • "Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace." (His response to a reporter's question following criticism in The New York Times, 1920)

  • "It is not a simple matter to differentiate unsuccessful from successful experiments. . . .[Most] work that is finally successful is the result of a series of unsuccessful tests in which difficulties are gradually eliminated." (Written to a correspondent, early 1940s)

Timeline

  • 1882 Birth in Worcester, Massachusetts
    Worcester, Massachusetts
    Worcester is a city and the county seat of Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. Named after Worcester, England, as of the 2010 Census the city's population is 181,045, making it the second largest city in New England after Boston....

  • 1900 US Census living with his grandmother
  • 1908 Wrote Old Tech, a musical composition
  • 1908 Graduation from Worcester Polytechnic Institute
    Worcester Polytechnic Institute
    Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a private university located in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States.Founded in 1865 in Worcester, WPI was one of the United States' first engineering and technology universities...

  • 1919 A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes published
  • 1920 Report in The New York Times on January 12
  • 1924 Marriage to Esther Christine Kisk on June 21
  • 1926 First rocket launched from Auburn, Massachusetts
    Auburn, Massachusetts
    Auburn is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 16,188 at the 2010 census.- History :Auburn was first settled in 1789 and was officially incorporated in 1808 as the town of Ward, in honor of American Revolution General Artemas Ward...

     on March 26
  • 1930 Moved to Mescalero Ranch, Roswell, New Mexico
  • 1945 Death from throat cancer in Baltimore, Maryland

Patents of interest

- Rocket apparatus - R. H. Goddard - Rocket apparatus - R. H. Goddard

See also

  • Wernher von Braun
    Wernher von Braun
    Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was a German rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany during World War II and in the United States after that.A former member of the Nazi party,...

  • Robert Esnault-Pelterie
    Robert Esnault-Pelterie
    Robert Albert Charles Esnault-Pelterie was a pioneering French aircraft designer and spaceflight theorist. He was born in Paris, the son of a textile industrialist...

  • Sergey Korolyov
    Sergey Korolyov
    Sergei Pavlovich Korolev ; died 14 January 1966 in Moscow, Russia) was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s...

  • Hermann Oberth
    Hermann Oberth
    Hermann Julius Oberth was an Austro-Hungarian-born German physicist and engineer. He is considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics.- Early life :...

  • Pedro Paulet
    Pedro Paulet
    Pedro Paulet Mostajo was a Peruvian scientist who claimed he, in 1895, was the first person to build a liquid-fuel rocket engine and, in 1900, the first person to build a modern rocket propulsion system. Paulet is considered one of the "fathers of aeronautics"...

  • Vikram Sarabhai
    Vikram Sarabhai
    Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai was an Indian physicist. He is considered to be the father of the Indian space program; legendary Homi Bhabha’s successor as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission; and was as at home in the world of the arts as in his favourite laboratory. His interests were vast and...

  • Spacecraft propulsion
    Spacecraft propulsion
    Spacecraft propulsion is any method used to accelerate spacecraft and artificial satellites. There are many different methods. Each method has drawbacks and advantages, and spacecraft propulsion is an active area of research. However, most spacecraft today are propelled by forcing a gas from the...

  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
    Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
    Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was an Imperial Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory. Along with his followers the German Hermann Oberth and the American Robert H. Goddard, he is considered to be one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics...

  • U.S. Space Exploration History on U.S. Stamps
    U.S. space exploration history on U.S. stamps
    With the advent of unmanned and manned space flight a whole new era of American history had presented itself. Keeping with the tradition of honoring the country's history on the face of U.S. postage stamps, the U.S. Post Office began honoring the various events with its commemorative postage stamp...


External links

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