Reaching Toward Space

His 1935 rocket was a technological tour de force, but Robert H. Goddard hid it from history.

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The brilliant Theodore von Kármán, professor of engineering at Cal Tech, once remarked that there was no direct line from Goddard to modern rocketry. "He is on a branch that died....If he had taken others into his confidence, I think he would have developed workable high-altitude rockets and his achievements would have been greater than they were."

As Charles Lindbergh recognized, however, there are other ways to gauge the achievements of an individual human spirit. "When I see a rocket rising from its pad," Lindbergh wrote in 1974, "I think of how the most fantastic dreams come true, of how dreams have formed into matter and matter into dreams. Then I sense Goddard standing at my side, his human physical substance now ethereal, his dreams substantive....What sunbound astronaut’s experience can equal that of Robert Goddard, whose body stayed on earth while he voyaged through galaxies?"


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