Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 March 16
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Rockets and Robert Goddard
Credit: Courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Explanation: Robert H. Goddard, one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry, was born in Worcester Massachusetts in 1882. As a 16 year old, Goddard read H.G. Wells' science fiction classic "War Of The Worlds" and dreamed of space flight. By 1926 he had designed, built, and flown the world's first liquid fuel rocket. Launched 75 years ago today from his aunt Effie's farm in Auburn Massachusetts, the rocket, dubbed "Nell", rose to an altitude of 41 feet in a flight that lasted about 2 1/2 seconds. Pictured here Goddard stands next to the 10 foot tall rocket, holding the launch stand. To achieve a stable flight without the need for fins the rocket's heavy motor is located at the top, fed by lines from liquid oxygen and gasoline fuel tanks at the bottom. During his career Goddard was ridiculed by the press for suggesting that rockets could be flown to the Moon, but he kept up his experiments supported in part by the Smithsonian Institution and championed by Charles Lindbergh. Widely recognized as a gifted experimenter and engineering genius, his rockets were many years ahead of their time. Goddard was awarded over 200 patents in rocket technology, most of them after his death in 1945. A liquid fuel rocket constructed on principles developed by Goddard landed humans on the Moon in 1969.

Tomorrow's picture: Shuttle Astronomy

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.