Sunday, April 26, 2009
Robert Goddard - Rocket Propulsion
Dr. Robert Goddard was a physicist who taught at both Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University, and is considered to be the “father of modern rocket propulsion.” His research at those universities, as well as for various private and government organizations, was focused on the development of rocket technology. He gained early, widespread notoriety on the subject based on an article that he prepared for publication in a Smithsonian journal at the beginning of 1920. In it, Goddard described the grand potential that rockets possessed and even went so far as to claim their ability to carry a payload to the moon. This claim was seen as an absolutely foolish statement at the time and was publicly ridiculed by the New York Times.
Despite the public criticism of his work, Goddard continued to develop his designs and theories on rocket propulsion. On March 16, 1926 Robert launched his first liquid rocket from small farm in Massachusetts. Though it only flew 41 ft into the air, it proved that his concepts had merit, which helped him to continue to secure funding for his research. Interesting, though Goddard contacted the US Army concerning the military applications of his rockets and even presented several Army officials with videos of his launches, he was essentially ignored. Ironically, the German government was very aware of the military applications of his rocket technology so they enlisted their engineers to attempt to gain technical information from him. Robert closely guarded his technical data and never discussed sensitive rockets details with any of the German’s, but by gathering Goddard’s published information the German military was able to learn enough to build the infamous V2 rockets with many of his design components.