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  Robert Goddard (1882-1945)  USA

goddardsp1.jpeg (11831 bytes)


Father of American spaceflight.

Started to study rockets in 1915 and developed his first liquid propergol rocket 16th.March 1926.

That attained a height of only 12m after 2.5s with a velocity of 28m/s. 

M1 =7.27kgs M2=2.60kgs

Launch site: Aunt Effie's cabbage patch in Auburn. Massachusetts New England

Note: This should be encouraging news water rocket debutants.


Second development flight 17 July 1929 h 52m, Fjet 57N Tjet12s

Attracted the attention of both the police and the press Who ran an embarrasing title

'Rocket misses moon by 238,799 1/2miles.'

As a sequel to the statement made by Goddard in 1920 that rockets would be capable of reaching the moon..



















Unlike todays rockets this first rocket had its combustion chamber and jet nozzle installed at the top of the rocket with the kerosene and liquid oxygen reservoirs postioned below. Insulated from the jet flame by a special heat shield. The tubes forming the frame transported the pressurused fuel to the combustion chamber.

Because the jet thrust produced was only just capable of propelling a small rocket mass. Goddard decided that the mass of the rocket body and recovery parachute system was to be removed for the flight. No real suprise the flight was very unstable and Goddard subsequently changed the position of the jet to the base of the rocket.

A professor of physics at Clark University and supported in his rocket research by the Smithsonian Institute  and later the Guggenhiem Foundation.. Goddard prefered to work in secret. Why?

Following the publication of his 1920 report "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes." He had been ridiculed in the national press. Which included Time magazine. For suggesting that rockets powerful enough would one day be capable of reaching the moon. 

Following his second rocket flight in 1929  he recieved a sinical press article entitled 'Rocket misses moon by 238,799 1/2miles.'

Subsequently he remained somewhat of a recluse for the rest of his life. 

Following the launch in 1929 Goddard moved with his wife Esther to continue his rocket research work in Roswell, New Mexico. 


At the first launch in 1926 Goddard was helped by a colleague Percy Roope assistant professor of Physics  and Henry Sachs the laboratory technical assitant and machinist ( The manufacturer). His wife Esther took the photograph. Since somewhat understandably the press were not invited.

Over the next 10 years Goddard worked virtually undisturbed in the open, roasted stretches of the Western scrub of Rosewell.  His rockets grew progressively is size from 3.7m (12 ft) to 4.9m(16 ft).and then to 5.5m(18 ft.), whilst the apogee (altitude) attained by his rockets steadily climbed from 610m(2,000 ft.) to 2288m (7,500 ft.) to 2745m(9,000 ft).

Finally he built a rocket that exceeded the speed of sound.

Goddards first reference to the possible utililisation of hydrogen as a liquid propergol 

( rocket fuel) was in a 1919 note he added to a paper he had initailly published in 1916.

 Filing numerous patents that covered  everything from gyroscopic guidance systems to  fin-stabilized steering, variable orientation rocket expansion nozzles and multistage rockets.

How much the research carried out by Von Braun  profited from reading these patents is unclear.


'The Dream that would not die' 1965 NASA archive documentry

Important black and white archive film of Goddard rocket development programme with comments by his wife Esther. 






Courtesy Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.


Today 78 years later and 43 years after the death of Goddard, 'Time' readily admits that they where wrong!!


Courtesy 'Time 100'

In conclusion it is probably fair to say that Goddard was a poor communicator and was not the best at handling human/public relations.

That said the predominent reason for originally naming the Jet propulsion laboratory was the fear that if they used of the word 'rocket' in the title it would associate them with what the public thought was the luntatic fringe.


Nasa reference to Goddards work on rocket engines and fuels.




Goddards early interest in the possiblity of electric propulsion pdf



This site was created on the 15th April 2003

ŠJohn Gwynn and sons2003 

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 as long as you give us proper credit (by referring to "The Water-Rocket Explorer" http://waterocket.explorer.free.fr".