Dr. Robert Goddard

Dr. Robert Goddard

"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 Goddard

Dr. Robert Goddard (1882-1945) is the father of modern rocketry.  Born in the time of the horse and buggy, he took the first steps toward space travel.  In 1930, Dr. Goddard and his wife moved to Roswell to set up his research and testing facilities. They settled at Mescalero Ranch, northeast of town.  About 10 miles away, Goddard used the open ranch land at Eden Valley as a test site where he set up a 60-foot tower. Some of Goddard’s most important work was accomplished in Roswell. In 1935 at a time when 50 mph was considered really fast, he launched the first liquid fueled rocket to exceed the speed of sound.

Goddard constructed and successfully tested the first rocket using liquid fuel in March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Massachusetts.  It was as significant an event as that of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.  Primitive was the achievement of the Wrights compared to Goddard’s rockets, but almost no one knew of it or could foresee the implications.  Goddard pressed on with modest subsidies from the Smithsonian Institution and the Daniel Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the leaves of absence granted him by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute of Clark University.  Goddard received U.S. patents for a rocket using liquid fuel and for a two- or three-stage rocket using solid fuel.  Both concepts were key to putting a man on the moon.

As early as 1920, Goddard outlined the possibility of a rocket reaching the moon. The media picked up Goddard’s scientific proposals about a rocket flight to the moon and ridiculed the feasibility of such a thing.  In World War II, the rest of the world saw the distructive possibilities of Goddard's rocket vision with the German V2 rockets.  Goddard’s work largely anticipated the technical detail of the German V-2 missiles, including gyroscopic control, steering by means of vanes in the jet stream of the rocket motor, gimbal-steering, power-driven fuel pumps and other devices. Some of his other visionary work are the first scientific payload, the idea of the bazooka, jet assisted takeoff, and rocket motors capable of variable thrust.  All fairly common in the world today, but truly revolutionary in his day.

Robert H. Goddard died on Aug. 10, 1945. Following his death, his widow, Esther Goddard, championed his work. On Sept. 16, 1959, the 86th Congress authorized the issuance of a gold medal in the honor of professor Robert H. Goddard. Esther Goddard was on hand for the formal dedication of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on March 16, 1961.