Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Robert Hutchings Goddard

There is a large gallery in the Roswell Museum and Art Center devoted to Robert H. Goddard.  Before the first mass produced car in 1901, and the advent of the radio in 1920; Robert Goddard was experimenting with rocketry, with the idea of sending one to the moon!  His open minded creative genius is astounding!   
Robert Goddard lived from 1882-1945!  Take particular note of the early time period in which he lived and the lack of technology that would have existed at that time!  Although his work in the field was revolutionary, Goddard received little public support for his research.  The press sometimes ridiculed his theories of spaceflight.  In fact, his thinking was so advanced that he even had to guard how much he shared with the scientific community, so as to stay within their perceived norm of rational thinking!  Years after his death at the dawn of the Space Age (1957), he came to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry!            
The First Rockets:  The first fuel rockets were built by Robert Goddard in the Fall of 1925.  They were filled with Texaco gasoline and liquefied oxygen.  One rocket sputtered to an altitude of 41 feet.       
Flight Testing in Roswell:  Between 1920 and 1942
Dr. Goddard performed 56 flight tests in Roswell.  Each test brought refinements and new designs.  Of the 32 flights produced, the best altitude was close to a mile and a half.
Magnetic Levitation:  Dr. Goddard imagined that the 200 mile trip between New York and Boston could be made in 10 minutes!  His idea: a vehicle gliding without friction, levitated by magnets in an evacuated tunnel.  Prototype Maglev systems have recently been developed in Germany and Japan!
The Rocket Turboprop:  Dr. Goddard's turboprop was an attempt to make practical use of rockets at low speeds.  The idea of operating propellers with high speed jets has been successfully employed in both turboprop and turbofan engines.
Solar Energy:  Solar Energy was a natural interest for Dr. Goddard, as it is the only source of energy in outer space.
Rockets for Airplanes:  During WW2, Dr. Goddard developed rockets to boost Navy aircraft during take off.  Ultimately, this work led to a rocket motor for the Bell X-2 aircraft which set speed and altitude records in 1956.
Radio Tubes:  In 1915, Dr. Goddard patented one of the first radio frequency oscillating tubes.  These were successfully marketed under the name Gammatron.  The company that manufactured the tubes later merged with ITT.
Explosive Propulsion:  In 1919 Dr. Goddard suggested an unusual rocket propelled by a series of explosions in a cone-shaped reflector.  The idea resurfaced in the 1960s at NASA where a prototype was successfully launched!
This is a 1928 liquid fuel rocket. 
Creativity:  These objects are just a few of
Dr. Goddard's attempts at a reliable and efficient thrust chamber.  He explored a wide variety of designs and materials.
In 1914 his first two landmark patents were accepted and registered.  The first U.S. patent described a multi-stage rocket.  The second patent described a rocket fueled with gasoline and liquid nitrous oxide.  The two patents would eventually become important milestones in the history of rocketry!  Roy and I are not only impressed with this man's contributions to technology, but his ability to persist in his pursuit of a vision despite the lack of support by the public and scientific community.  That's a lesson we can all take to heart!