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Robert H. Goddard

Robert Hutchings Goddard (October 5, 1882 – August 10, 1945) was an American engineer, professor, physicist, and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world's first liquid-fueled rocket. Goddard successfully launched his model on March 16, 1926, ushering in an era of space flight and innovation. He and his team launched 34 rockets between 1926 and 1941, achieving altitudes as high as 2.6 km (1.6 mi) and speeds as fast as 885 km/h (550 mph).
Goddard's interest in aerodynamics led him to study some of Samuel Langley's scientific papers in the periodical Smithsonian. In these papers, Langley wrote that birds flap their wings with different force on each side to turn in the air. Inspired by these articles, the teenage Goddard watched swallows and chimney swifts from the porch of his home, noting how subtly the birds moved their wings to control their flight. He noted how remarkably the birds controlled their flight with their tail feathers, which he called the birds' equivalent of ailerons. He took exception to some of Langley's conclusions and in 1901 wrote a letter to St. Nicholas magazine with his own ideas. The editor of St. Nicholas declined to publish Goddard's letter, remarking that birds fly with a certain amount of intelligence and that "machines will not act with such intelligence." Goddard disagreed, believing that a man could control a flying machine with his own intelligence.
By 1912 he had in his spare time, using calculus, developed the mathematics which allowed him to calculate the position and velocity of a rocket in vertical flight, given the weight of the rocket and weight of the propellant and the velocity (with respect to the rocket frame) of the exhaust gases. His first goal was to build a sounding rocket with which to study the atmosphere. Not only would such investigation aid meteorology, but it was necessary to determine temperature, density and wind speed in order to design efficient space launch vehicles. He was very reluctant to admit that his ultimate goal was in fact to develop a vehicle for flights into space, since most scientists, especially in the United States, did not consider such a goal to be a realistic or practical scientific pursuit, nor was the public yet ready to seriously consider such ideas. Later, in 1933, Goddard said that " no case must we allow ourselves to be deterred from the achievement of space travel, test by test and step by step, until one day we succeed, cost what it may.
Not all of Goddard's early work was geared towards space travel. As the United States entered World War I in 1917, the country's universities began to lend their services to the war effort. Goddard believed his rocket research could be applied to many different military applications, including mobile artillery, field weapons and naval torpedoes. He made proposals to the Navy and Army. No record exists in his papers of any interest by the Navy to Goddard's inquiry. However, Army Ordnance was quite interested, and Goddard met several times with Army personnel.
Goddard described extensive experiments with solid-fuel rocket engines burning high grade nitrocellulose smokeless powder. A critical breakthrough was the use of the steam turbine nozzle invented by the Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval. The de Laval nozzle allows the most efficient (isentropic) conversion of the energy of hot gases into forward motion. By means of this nozzle, Goddard increased the efficiency of his rocket engines from two percent to 64 percent and obtained supersonic exhaust velocities of over Mach 7.
On January 12, 1920, a front-page story in The New York Times, "Believes Rocket Can Reach Moon", reported a Smithsonian press release about a "multiple-charge, high-efficiency rocket." The chief application envisaged was "the possibility of sending recording apparatus to moderate and extreme altitudes within the Earth's atmosphere", the advantage over balloon-carried instruments being ease of recovery, since "the new rocket apparatus would go straight up and come straight down." But it also mentioned a proposal "to [send] to the dark part of the new moon a sufficiently large amount of the most brilliant flash powder which, in being ignited on impact, would be plainly visible in a powerful telescope. This would be the only way of proving that the rocket had really left the attraction of the earth, as the apparatus would never come back, once it had escaped that attraction.