New Path

By 1901, Robert dropped his courses in bookkeeping and enrolled in Worcester's South High School. His younger classmates received him as something of a phenomenon as he devoured countless books that had anything to do with the hard sciences. Through these years, his enthusiasm for rocketry never faltered. By 1903, he had built small rocket supports and had fired numerous small powder-propelled rockets from his field at home. He even experimented with electronic igniters. In 1904, he graduated as valedictorian from South High and enrolled at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), a very different path from a future as a humble bookkeeper.

Goddard spent four years at WPI, receiving guidance and special influence from his physics professor, A. Wilmer Duff. During these years, he continued experimenting with small solid-fueled rockets. In 1907, he fired a powder rocket in the basement of the school, causing an explosion, not only in the literal sense, but also his name across the local papers. Rather than expelling Goddard, the school officials took an interest in his work and offered him encouragement.

Isaac Newton's Three Laws of Motion

The English scientist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton (1643—1727) is considered one of history's greatest scientists. Among many achievements, he is known for the formulation of his law of universal gravitation and of his three laws of motion. In the period 1669—87, he was professor at Cambridge University, the same institution where he received his education. He spent his college years studying the philosophies of such scientific greats as the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384—322 B.C.E.), French philosophers René Descartes (1596-1650) and Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), English philosopher and political theorist Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), English natural philosopher and chemist Robert Boyle (1627-91), Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei (1564-1642),

Goddard's main problem with the design of a rocket was not in the concept itself; rockets had been around since China invented gunpowder in about 1000 c.e. The problem was devising a practical rocket propellant capable of producing enough force to defy the Earth's gravity and reach outer space. This was the problem over which Goddard worried while working to earn his degree.

In 1908, Goddard graduated from WPI with a bachelor's degree in physics. He was a man with one goal: to build a vehicle capable of traveling out of Earth's influence. He immediately entered Clark University in Worcester, one of the first graduate schools in America dedicated to science.

A Russian by the name of Constantine Chikofsky first theorized over the idea of a liquid, rather than black powder, fueled rocket for space travel in an article he published in Russia in 1903. By 1909, Goddard had formulated his own theoretical design for a liquid-fueled rocket using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

and German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler (1571—1630), as well as many others. The varied influence of all these different scientists developed Newton into a freethinking scientist himself, leading to his founding contributions into many fields of science, including the formulation of his famous three laws of motion:

• Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by a force impressed on it.

• The change in motion, or rate of change of momentum, is proportional to the motive force impressed and is made in the direction of the straight line in which that force is impressed.

• For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton is also well known for solving mysteries surrounding optics and light, and for helping to found, along with German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646—1716), a new method of mathematics known today as calculus.

Yet so far, all his actual experiments with homemade rocket launching were conducted using products that were readily available, meaning gunpowder. Goddard had more than one design for self-propelled rockets. His list included the cartridge-loading rocket, solar rocket, ionized rocket, liquid hydrogen-oxygen rocket, and even an idea for an atomic rocket. His ideas were grand, but one after another, Goddard found flaws in his conceptual designs, stating they were too expensive or too difficult to carry out. In 1911, Goddard received a doctorate in physics from Clark University.

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