H. Goddard: American Rocket Pioneer
father of modern rocket propulsion is the American, Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard. Along with Konstantin Eduordovich Tsiolkovsky
of Russia and Hermann Oberth of Germany, Goddard envisioned the exploration of space. A physicist of great insight, Goddard
also had an unique genius for invention.
By 1926, Goddard had constructed and
tested successfully the first rocket using liquid fuel. Indeed, the flight of Goddard's rocket on March 16,1926, at Auburn,
Massachusetts, was a feat as epochal in history as that of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. Yet, it was one of Goddard's
"firsts" in the now booming significance of rocket propulsion in the fields of military missilery and the scientific exploration
Primitive in their day as the achievement
of the Wrights, Goddard's rockets made little impression upon government officials. Only through the modest subsidies of the
Smithsonian Institution and the Daniel Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the leaves of absence granted him by Worcester Polytechnic
Institute of Clark University, was Goddard able to sustain his lifetime of devoted research and testing. He worked for the
U.S. Navy in both World Wars. Eighteen years after his successful demonstration at Auburn, Goddard's pioneering achievements
came to life in the German V-2 ballistic missile.
Goddard first obtained public notice
in 1907 in a cloud of smoke from a powder rocket fired in the basement of the physics building in Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
School officials took an immediate interest in the work of student Goddard. They, to their credit, did not expel him. He thus
began his lifetime of dedicated work.
In 1914, Goddard received two U.S. patents.
One was for a rocket using liquid fuel. The other was for a two or three stage rocket using solid fuel. At his own expense,
he began to make systematic studies about propulsion provided by various types of gunpowder. His classic document was a study
that he wrote in 1916 requesting funds of the Smithsonian Institution so that he could continue his research. This was later
published along with his subsequent research and Navy work in a Smithsonian Miscellaneous Publication No. 2540 (January 1920).
It was entitled "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes." In this treatise, he detailed his search for methods of raising
weather recording instruments higher than sounding balloons. In this search, as he related, he developed the mathematical
theories of rocket propulsion.
Towards the end of his 1920 report,
Goddard outlined the possibility of a rocket reaching the moon and exploding a load of flash powder there to mark its arrival.
The bulk of his scientific report to the Smithsonian was a dry explanation of how he used the $5000 grant in his research.
Yet, the press picked up Goddard' s scientific proposal about a rocket flight to the moon and erected a journalistic controversy
concerning the feasibility of such a thing. Much ridicule came Goddard's way. And he reached firm convictions about the virtues
of the press corps which he held for the rest of his life. Yet, several score of the 1750 copies of the 1920 Smithsonian report
reached Europe. The German Rocket Society was formed in 1927, and the German Army began its rocket program in 1931. Goddard's
greatest engineering contributions were made during his work in the 1920's and 1930's (see list of historic firsts). He received
a total of $10,000 from the Smithsonian by 1927, and through the personal efforts of Charles A. Lindbergh, he subsequently
received financial support from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation. Progress on all of his work was published in
"Liquid Propellant Rocket Development," which was published by the Smithsonian in 1936.
Goddard's work largely anticipated in
technical detail the later German V-2 missiles, including gyroscopic control, steering by means of vanes in the jet stream
of the rocket motor, gimbalsteering, power-driven fuel pumps and other devices. His rocket flight in 1929 carried the first
scientific payload, a barometer, and a camera. Goddard developed and demonstrated the basic idea of the "bazooka" two days
before the Armistice in 1918 at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. His launching platform was a music rack. Dr. Clarence N. Hickman,
a young Ph.D. from Clark University, worked with Goddard in 1918 provided continuity to the research that produced the World
War II bazooka. In World War II, Goddard again offered his services and was assigned by the U.S. Navy to the development of
practical jet assisted takeoff (JATO) and liquid propellant rocket motors capable of variable thrust. In both areas, he was
successful. He died on August 10,1945, four days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.
Goddard was the first scientist who
not only realized the potentialities of missiles and space flight but also contributed directly in bringing them to practical
realization. This rare talent in both creative science and practical engineering places Goddard well above the opposite numbers
among the European rocket pioneers. The dedicated labors of this modest man went largely unrecognized in the United States
until the dawn of what is now called the "space age." High honors and wide acclaim, belated but richly deserved, now come
to the name of Robert H. Goddard.
On September 16, 1959, the 86th Congress
authorized the issuance of a gold meal in the honor of Professor Robert H. Goddard.
In memory of the brilliant scientist,
a major space science laboratory, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, was established on May 1, 1959.
GODDARD'S HISTORIC FIRSTS
Robert H. Goddard's basic contribution to missilery
and space flight is a lengthy list. As such, it is an eloquent testimonial to his lifetime of work in establishing and demonstrating
the fundamental principles of rocket propulsion.
- First explored mathematically the practicality of using rocket
propulsion to reach high & altitudes and even the moon (1912);
- First proved, by actual static test, that a rocket will work
in a vacuum, that it needs no air to push against;
- First developed and shot a liquid fuel rocket, March 16,1926;
- First shot a scientific payload (barometer and camera) in a rocket
flight (1929, Auburn, Massachusetts);
- First used vanes in the rocket motor blast for guidance (1932,
- First developed gyro control apparatus for rocket flight (1932,
- First received U.S. patent in idea of multi-stage rocket (1914);
- First developed pumps suitable for rocket fuels;
- First launched successfully a rocket with a motor pivoted on
gimbals under the influence of a & gyro mechanism (1937).