Robert Hutchings Goddard , Testing the First Rockets

Before the first rocket could lift off into space, many different tests were needed to find the right calculations regarding the weight, fuel use, and other factors. When Robert Hutchings Goddard returned to Clark University after serving as a research fellow at Princeton University, he started working on making model rockets that could fly.

Making a Rocket Fly

At Clark University, Goddard started working on an experiment that illustrated that a rocket could fly in a vacuum, which would prove the possibility of space travel. At the time, his ideas and theories went beyond the mainstream mindset of scientists. They believed Goddard could only be possibly talking about using rockets to explore the upper atmosphere and had no clue what he really envisioned.

The Smithsonian Institution and Clark University granted Goddard research money in 1916 so that he could continue his work. In 1919, he submitted a report to the Smithsonian centered on achieving high altitudes. The Institute published his findings, where he described his experiments and their results. He also touched upon the advancements he was able to make by using the de Laval nozzle (a product created by Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval that worked in steam turbines). Around the world, rocket scientists and other professionals took in the information. It proved highly beneficial and influenced many new lines of thought.

Goddard was convinced that a rocket could be made some day to reach the moon. When reporters and other media outlets heard about his theory, Goddard was attacked for his ideas. Some dismissed his claims as not having a basic understanding of physics. No one thought that a rocket would be able to push against the atmosphere. After hearing this response, Goddard became increasingly close-lipped about his work.

Liquid Fuel Experiments

The early 1920s saw Goddard testing out some of his theories regarding liquid fuel. Using a liquid oxygen and gasoline mix, he created a prototype for a rocket. At his aunt’s farm in Massachusetts, he tested out his contraptions during 1926. This is where the first test flight for a liquid-fuel rocket took place. The prototype was comprised of pipes, a fuel tank at the bottom, and an engine positioned at the top. Although it only wnet into the air for 2 ½ seconds, Goddard was successful in sending a rocket into flight.

The liquid-fuel propulsion system showed potential”¦with a few tweaks, of course.

Goddard spent the next couple of years creating and flying rocket that increased in size and power. Because his flights were catching the eye of the public, he needed to find a more isolated location to test out his rockets.

Help would come in the form of a very influential and famous personality in history. To learn who assisted Goddard in realizing his dream, read the third part of this article centered on Robert Hutchings Goddard.