Robert H. Goddard Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: October 5, 1882
Died: August 10, 1945
Biography | show moreshow less
Goddard (1882-1945) began experimenting with rockets in 1908, when he demonstrated that rockets could operate in a vacuum. 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. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Publication No. 2540 (January 1920) included Goddard's report entitled "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes". In it, he detailed his search for methods of raising weather recording instruments higher than sounding balloons. In this search, 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 press generally ignored the main part of the report and concentrated on Goddard's scientific proposal about a rocket flight to the Moon. "The New York Times", on January 13, 1920, wrote that everyone knew that space travel was impossible since without atmosphere to push against, a rocket could not move so much as an inch. Professor Goddard, it was clear, lacked "the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools" the "Times" concluded. In this letter, Dr. Goddard explains how, upon landing on the Moon, his rocket could explode flash powder with oxygen-carrying potassium chlorate. Five years after writing this letter, Goddard tested the first successful liquid fuel rocket. A liquid fuel rocket constructed on principles developed by Goddard landed humans on the Moon in 1969.

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