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Picture of the day - October 11, 2006

Dr. Robert Goddard Pulling One Of His Rockets

Dr. Robert Goddard
Click photo to enlarge.          Photo courtesy of NASA.

Although Dr. Robert H. Goddard was born just 17 years after the end of the he had an inspiration that would eventually allow us to travel to other worlds and explore our universe on a grand scale.

Dr. Robert H. GoddardAt the dawn of the 20th century, Dr. Goddard saw the Wright Brothers successfully test a machine at Kitty Hawk, NC that had the ability to escape the shackles of gravity and enable human beings to take flight and soar through the air like birds. He immediately understood the amazing potential for flight, both manned and un-manned. While he recognized that the development of the airplane would forever change the way we move people and cargo large distances here on earth, his sights were set much higher - what if we could travel away from earth and visit other planets and beyond?

Goddard knew that an airplane could never achieve the velocity required to escape the earth's gravity - that monumental feat would require the amazing thrust generated by a rocket motor. He set about designing, building and launching rockets, and over the course of his career he built up a massive body of rocket science that would eventually serve as the foundation of the technology that landed American astronauts on the moon! But there was a problem...

Many Americans thought Goddard was simply a crackpot wasting thousands of dollars chasing an unrealistic dream, and the U.S. Government had no interest in his work. The Germans did, however. At the end of World War II, several influential German rocket engineers were brought to the U.S. and questioned about their highly successful rocket program. When asked how they learned how to design rockets, they replied "by watching your Dr. Goddard". They seemed astounded that the Americans hadn't taken advantage of Goddard's work before they did!

Although Dr. Goddard didn't live long enough to see America step into the space age, his work was instrumental in allowing us to do so. As a long-overdue gesture of thanks and respect, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland was named in his honor.

"It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow."  --Dr. Robert H. Goddard.

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