Broken Spirit

In an attempt to lighten the payload of his rockets and to discover a more efficient way to regulate the flow of fuels into the combustion chamber, in 1938 Goddard began making plans for an even



Directional fuel flow

Simplified diagram of the pump and turbine fueling system Goddard used in his last series of rocket tests more efficient rocket engine. He designed a new lightweight, pump-turbine-driven unit that would potentially provide tremendous thrust through a self-sustained fuel-feeding system. These rockets, which he called the "P" series, resulted in the testing of 36 rockets. The "P" series would be his last attempt at reaching extreme heights.

The 24-foot (7.3-m) "P" series rocket was Goddard's most elaborate design, possessing all the best attributes of his knowledge of rocketry. Not only did it accommodate the newly designed pump-turbine engine, it was also equipped with a gyroscopic stabilizer, a high-pressure combustion chamber, lighter-weight fuel tanks, and, of course, a parachute deployment system.

Launch day for his first "P" series rocket came on February 9, 1940. Plenty of excitement surrounded the launch, but it turned out to be a disappointing failure when it blew apart at the launch tower. The cause was thought to be ice clogging the ignition. The second "P" rocket failed as well, as did all other "P" designs, one after another, for various reasons. The pump-turbine engine worked—that was not the problem. It was merely bad luck and wild mishaps keeping Goddard's flights from achieving success.

October 10, 1941, marked the end of experimentation for Goddard. The engine on rocket P-36 ignited, but this time the rocket jammed in the launch tower. The event was yet another failure. As the roiling flames died on the launch pad of P-36, so guttered the flame of Goddard's ambition. For years, his almost childlike enthusiasm kept his dreams of reaching space as dynamic as the day he descended from the cherry tree. Yet now, after so many torturous failures, Goddard's disappointment ran deep

One of Goddard's "P" series rockets as it waits in the launching tower at Roswell, New Mexico, on March 21, 1940

enough to turn the embers of hope into ashes of despair. His spirit finally broken, Goddard gave up on his lifelong dream of reaching extreme altitude. He never launched another rocket.

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