Robert Hutchings Goddard
Born Oct 5 1882
- Died Aug 10 1945
Control Mechanism for Rocket Apparatus
Solid Fuel Rockets
Patent Number(s) 2,397,657
Robert Hutchings Goddard pioneered modern rocketry and space flight and founded a whole field of science and engineering.
Many people viewed rockets as an impossibility in the years after WWI as Goddard developed his prototype. In fact the New York Times ran an editorial lambasting his theories about solid-fueled rockets reaching the moon, but Goddard increased the efficiency of his solid-fueled rocket engines from 2 to 64 percent when he started using the de Laval nozzle. This nozzle converted hot gases into forward motion. By 1921 Goddard moved to liquid fueled rockets, and he tested his first rocket in November 1923.
Today, liquid-fueled rockets are impractical for military applications. But NASA continues to use liquid-fueled rockets on the Space Shuttle and on unmanned missiles to place satellites in space.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Goddard graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1908 then became a physics instructor at Worcester Tech. At the same time he began graduate work at Clark University, where he received his M.A. in 1910 and a Ph.D. in 1911. Goddard was a research fellow at Princeton in 1912 and 1913 and the following year joined the faculty at Clark University, where he became a full professor in 1919. Goddard's interest in rockets began in 1899, when he was 17. As early as 1908 he conducted static tests with small solid-fuel rockets at Worcester Tech, and in 1912 he developed the detailed mathematical theory of rocket propulsion. In 1915 he proved that rocket engines could produce thrust in a vacuum and therefore make space flight possible. In 1916 the Smithsonian Institution provided funds for Goddard to continue his work on solid-propellant rockets and to begin development of liquid-fuel rockets as well. During World War I Goddard explored the military possibilities of rockets. He succeeded in developing several types of solid-fuel rockets to be fired from hand-held or tripod-mounted launching tubes, which were the basis of the bazooka and other powerful rocket weapons of World War II. Over the following two decades he produced a number of large liquid-fuel rockets at his shop and rocket range at Roswell, New Mexico. During World War II he was assigned by the U.S. Navy to develop rocket-assisted takeoff of carrier planes and variable-thrust liquid-fuel rocket motors. At the time of his death Goddard held 214 patents in rocketry.