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Goddard: rocket pioneer


Robert Goddard is known as the 'Father of the Space Age'. He was the first person to suggest that rockets could be used to reach the Moon, and the first person to make a rocket engine that used liquid fuel rather than explosives. This type of rocket was eventually used to reach the Moon.


Cartoon image of a firework blasting into the airRockets made of gunpowder, like our modern fireworks, were used by the Chinese as long ago as 1200 AD. No matter how large, this kind of rocket could never be powerful enough to take satellites and people up into space.


When Goddard was a student, he accidentally fired off a gunpowder rocket in the basement of his school, sending smoke everywhere. Fortunately they did not expel him, but actually encouraged his rocket work.

Images of Robert Goddard in his laboratory and with one of his rockets on a launch padSome people made fun of Goddard for his 'impossible' dream of sending a rocket into space, but he still worked away for 17 years quietly developing his rocket design. Then on 16th March 1926, at his Aunt Effie's farm in Auburn, Massachusetts, USA, his new rocket finally took off. It only went 12.5 metres high and flew for just 2.5 seconds, but the Space Age had begun.




He wrote in his diary,

The rocket looked almost magical as it rose, as if it said 'I've been here long enough, I think I'll be going somewhere else if you don't mind'


Goddard certainly had the last laugh when he said:

Every vision is a joke, until the first person accomplishes it


Did you know? A rocket works by blasting out material from it's engine VERY QUICKLY. It's rather like letting go of a balloon full of air when you haven't tied up the end. It shoots of as the air spurts out.

The SOHO spacecraft is controlled from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA - so named in his honour.


Image of the logo for the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, USA


Find at what happened next in the race into space.


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