Historical photographs

Goddard and the rockets. From the Renaissance to today

Goddard and the rockets. From the Renaissance to today


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Robert H. Goddard, one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1882. At 16, Goddard read the science fiction classic "War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells, and dreamed of space flights. By 1926 he had designed, built and flown the world's first liquid fuel rocket.

Launched on March 16, 1926 from his aunt Effie's farm in Auburn, Massachusetts, the rocket nicknamed "Nell" reached an altitude of 12.5 meters on a flight that lasted about 2½ seconds.

Photographed here, Goddard is standing next to the 3-meter-high rocket, holding the launching bracket. To achieve a stable flight without the need for fins, the heavy engine is located at the top, powered by lines that departed from fuel tanks filled with liquid oxygen and gasoline, located at the bottom of the rocket.

During his career, Goddard was ridiculed by the press for suggesting that the rockets could fly to the Moon, but he continued his experiments, supported in part by the Smithsonian Institute and defended by Charles Lindbergh. Widely recognized as a talented experimenter and an engineering genius, his rockets were many years ahead of his time.

Goddard was granted more than 200 technology patents, most of them until after his death in 1945. A liquid fuel rocket built on the principles developed by Goddard took humans to the Moon in 1969.

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