Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumPioneers of Flight

Rocket Pioneers

American Rocketry

Robert Goddard was among the few people who independently discovered the rocket as the key to space before World War I, and he was one of three (along with Tsiolkovsky and Oberth) who worked out all the equations. He went on to create the world's first flying, liquid-fuel rocket and made many other pioneering contributions to rocket technology.

Sadly, Goddard's desire for secrecy and his limitations as an engineer greatly limited his technological influence on later rocketry. But his impact on the world's imagination was profound.

Robert Hutchings Goddard

Robert Goddard created the world's first flying, liquid-fuel rocket and made many other pioneering contributions to rocket technology.

Robert Hutchings Goddard
1882—1945, born in Worcester, Massachusetts

Goddard grew up in a New England family interested in technical novelties. Despite tuberculosis, the talented scientist determinedly pursued his private obsession: space travel.

Goddard earned his PhD in physics at Clark University in Worcester and spent the rest of his career as a physics professor there. From 1930 to 1932 and 1934 to 1941, he and his wife, Esther, lived in Roswell, New Mexico, after he received funding from the Guggenheim family and foundation. During World War II, they moved to Annapolis, Maryland, while he worked on takeoff-assist rockets for the Navy.

Goddard with "Hoopskirt" Rocket

Robert Goddard with the "hoopskirt" rocket before an attempted launch on September 29, 1928.

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