Robert Goddard

Robert Goddard

A U.S. professor of physics and scientist, Robert Goddard was a pioneer of controlled, liquid-fueled rocketry. He launched the world's first liquid-fueled rocket on March 16, 1926. From 1930 to 1935, he launched rockets that attained speeds of up to 885 kilometers per hour (km/h) (550 miles per hour (mph)). Though his work in the field was revolutionary, he was sometimes ridiculed for his theories.

Robert Goddard received little scientific support during his lifetime. Eventually, however, he became recognized, along with Tsiolkovsky and Oberth, as one of the fathers of modern rocketry. He was the first not only to recognize the scientific potential behind missiles and space travel but also to bring about the physical design and construction of those ideas.


  • Liquid Fuel RocketWhen Goddard was a child, he tried making a hot air balloon out of sheets of aluminum. It didn’t work.
  • While in high school, he tried to compress graphite with hydrogen explosions, he wanted to make diamonds. At this time, he was known to keep a suitcase of TNT in his attic.
  • While attending WPI, Goddard wrote the school song, which is still used today.
  • He was sure we’d all be traveling by vacuum tube by 1950
  • In 1913, Goddard developed tuberculosis. His doctors gave him 2 weeks to live.
  • He was widely known as “Crazy Bob”
  • In 1917, while working for the Army, Goddard invented the bazooka. As it was powered by nitro glycerine, the Army needed to modify it for use. It took them 25 years to perfect the design.
  • Goddard launched 8 rockets in Auburn, including the world’s first liquid fuel rocket, with no publicity. The papers were simply not interested.
  • When Charles Lindbergh came to visit him, to check him out for funding from the Guggenheims, Bob and Esther Goddard gave him milk and chocolate cake, the only food fit for the most famous man in the world.
  • After his death, Esther Goddard got 131 patents in her husband’s name, using notes, sketches and photos she found in the house.
  • Esther became so famous in her own right, going around being sure Goddard was not forgotten, that she had a singular honor bestowed upon her in 1971. Come to the Auburn Historical Museum to see the photo of that event.

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