The industrial revolution and advances in science made age-old fantasies of flight into reality. Inspired by the achievement of flight in the atmosphere around 1900, dreamers of spaceflight drew on the physics of Isaac Newton and the science fiction of Jules Verne to imagine how it might be feasible to fly in space.
Rocket pioneers worked alone at first, theorizing, tinkering, and encouraging others in their quest. Then they formed small space societies in the 1920s and 1930s. By the start of World War II, governments and corporations were developing the rocket as a weapon. Among these groups were individuals who dreamed that their work would lead to exploration beyond Earth.
Smithsonian Institution Photo
Earth to Moon: The early visionaries all drew inspiration from science fiction, especially Jules Verne. His 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon featured a gigantic cannon in Florida that fired a capsule around the Moon. While this made for a good story, the visionaries knew the huge acceleration would have crushed Verne's travelers.