Robert H. Goddard on the Future
Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard 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.
Goddard was, in many ways, ahead of his time. His work was not understood by his colleagues, and he had great difficulty getting financial support for his experiments. By 1915, he was considering abandoning his work, since no one else seemed to think it promising.
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.
But Goddard never lived to see his dream of a rocket traveling into space. He died of throat cancer at his home in Baltimore on Aug. 10, 1945, twelve years before the launch of the Russian satellite, Sputnik.
Goddard was credited with 214 patents. Of these, 131 were filed by his wife after his death. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland was named for the scientist, as was the Goddard crater on the moon.
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)