(ORDO NEWS) — 96 years ago, the first liquid-fueled rocket, created by Robert Goddard, took off into the air. She rose only 12 meters, but became a pillar, thanks to which humanity was able to reach space.
On this day 96 years ago, the first liquid-fueled rocket took off. But people learned about her first and last flight only 10 years later.
96 years ago, on March 16, 1926, Robert Goddard (1882-1945) launched the world’s first liquid rocket. This seemingly unstable contraption with a combustion chamber and a nozzle on top burned for 20 seconds before using up all liquid oxygen and gasoline and breaking away from the launch pad.
The rocket took off from a snowy field outside Worcester, Massachusetts, reaching a height of about 12.5 meters and flying 56 meters horizontally. It shattered on impact, but was still a big step forward for the technology of the time.
When was the first rocket launched?
This event did not even get into the local newspapers. Indeed, the discreet professor kept it a secret for ten years. He told only a few people about it, and a couple of weeks later to Charles G. Abbott, director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (and secretary of the institute after 1928).
The Smithsonian had been funding Goddard since 1917 in the hope that his rocket would be able to lift instruments above the atmosphere the observatory’s main program was to measure solar activity and its variability.
In January 1920, the Institute inadvertently made Goddard world-famous by publishing his short, mathematical treatise, The Method for Reaching Extreme Heights. A long-lost Smithsonian press release noted his proposal to hit the night side of the Moon with a rocket carrying flash powder.
This story quickly spread around the world and was replicated as a story that a scientist recognized a journey to the moon as possible. But the press release also created a lot of sensation. Volunteers wrote to Goddard asking him to join the crew of his upcoming lunar voyage.
Subsequently, he did not refuse to speak to the press, but remained secretive about his technical experiments. He was afraid that others might steal his inventions, as he was convinced that he was the first person in the world to figure out how to make space flight possible.
His paranoia only intensified after German space enthusiasts became active in the 1920s. In 1930, Goddard received more funding when famed aviator Charles Lindbergh interfered with the Guggenheim Foundation.
The Clark University professor spent much of the 1930s in Roswell, New Mexico building and launching much larger rockets. When the Smithsonian, Lindbergh, and Harry Guggenheim pushed Goddard to publish another report in 1936, he finally revealed the 1926 launch.
And yet, as impressive as his work at Roswell was, Goddard continued to resist the pleas of his sponsors for help when his promises to reach the upper atmosphere failed to come true. In fact, Goddard’s work on liquid propellant rockets came close to a dead end because he didn’t want to share it with anyone. It was the Germans who made a breakthrough to large-scale rocket science with the help of the V-2.
Goddard lay on his deathbed, convinced that the Nazis had stolen technology from him. Its true meaning was not in the invention of liquid rocket technology, although no one can take the first from him.
However, he inspired others to believe that space travel would happen if rocket science developed. Former National Air and Space Museum curator Frank Winter showed the global impact of the method of reaching extreme heights.
Almost immediately, science fiction, films, and non-fiction stories recognized the rocket as a fundamental technology for spaceflight. Until 1920, this was just one of many ideas and fantasies. The traditional powder rocket made no impression, and the laws of physics were misunderstood.
After the publication of Goddard and scientists from the USSR and Germany, opinion began to change. Thus, Robert Goddard, against his will, paved the way for us to escape from Earth, which he had long dreamed of.
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