It Really Is Rocket Science, Robert Goddard, born 1882 October 5th

Robert Goddard, in full Robert Hutchings Goddard, (born October 5, 1882, Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.—died August 10, 1945, Baltimore, Maryland), American professor and inventor generally acknowledged to be the father of modern rocketry. He published his classic treatise, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, in 1919.

Robert Goddard’s contributions to missilery and space flight would make a lengthy list. Below are some highlights.

  • Explored the practicality of using rocket propulsion to reach high altitudes, even the moon (1912)
  • Proved that a rocket will work in a vacuum, that it needs no air to push against
  • Developed and fired a liquid fuel rocket (March 16, 1926, Auburn, Mass.)
  • Shot a scientific payload in a rocket flight (1929, Auburn, Mass.)
  • Used vanes in the rocket motor blast for guidance (1932, New Mexico)
  • Developed gyro control apparatus for rocket flight (1932, New Mexico)
  • Received U.S. patent for of multi-stage rocket (1914)
  • Developed pumps suitable for rocket fuels
  • Launched a rocket with a motor pivoted on gimbals under the influence of a gyro mechanism (1937)

Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard (1882-1945) is considered the father of modern rocket propulsion. A physicist of great insight, Goddard also had a unique genius for invention. It is in memory of this brilliant scientist that NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, was established on May 1, 1959.

By 1926, Goddard had constructed and successfully tested the first rocket using liquid fuel. Indeed, the flight of Goddard’s rocket on March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Massachusetts, was as significant to history as that of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.

Primitive in their day as the achievement of the Wrights, Goddard’s rockets made little impression on government officials. Only through modest subsidies from the Smithsonian Institution and the Daniel Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the leaves of absence granted him by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute of Clark University, was Goddard able to sustain his lifetime of devoted research and testing.