July 01 , 2007

Rocket Man

Robert H. Goddard and the Birth of the Space Age


More famous in his day than Einstein or Edison, the troubled, solitary genius Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945) was the American father of rocketry and space flight, launching the world's first liquid-fuel rockets and the first powered vehicles to break the sound barrier. Supported by Charles Lindbergh and Harry Guggenheim, through fiery, often explosive, experiments at Roswell, New Mexico, he invented the methods that carried men to the moon. Today, no rocket or jet plane can fly without using his inventions.

Yet he is the "forgotten man" of the space age. His own government ignored his rocketry until the Germans demonstrated its principles in the V-2 missiles of World War II. The American government usurped his 214 patents, while suppressing his contributions in the name of national security, until it was forced to pay one million dollars for patent infringement. Goddard became famous again, monuments and medals raining upon his memory. But his renewed fame soon faded, and Goddard's pivotal role in launching the Space Age has been largely forgotten.

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