Bad Press Brings Good News

The attention Goddard received from his 1929 launch, though all negative, drew the attention of world-renowned American aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-74). Two years earlier, Lindbergh had become famous for conducting the first nonstop transatlantic solo flight between New York City and Paris in his monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh was an advocate for anything that had to do with new aviation technology and was immediately interested in helping further Goddard's research. He approached the Daniel Guggenheim Foundation to solicit rocket exploration funding on Goddard's behalf. Guggenheim pledged $100,000 toward Goddard's research but suggested he find more suitable surroundings in which to work.

In 1930, Goddard received two years' leave from Clark University and moved his headquarters to Roswell, New Mexico. He, his wife, and a crew of four trusted engineers set up home and shop on a 10-acre parcel called Mescalero Ranch. On a secluded plain 10 miles (6 km) away, Goddard constructed his launch tower. With plenty of money and no one around to interrupt him, Goddard set to work with a goal of designing bigger and better rockets.

While in Roswell, Goddard's secretiveness escalated to paranoid proportions as he made many advancements in his progressively larger rocket designs. In Europe at this time, Germany was testing its

Goddard used this rocket in his first flight in Roswell, New Mexico, which took place on December 30, 1930. The rocket reached 2,000 feet (610 m), the highest flight achieved to that date. Goddard's machinist Henry Sachs is shown in the background. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

own rockets and rockets were all the rage, thanks in part to a 1923 book by Hermann Julius Oberth titled Die rake zu den planetenrau-men (The rocket into planetary space). Goddard was not aware of Oberth's theories on rocketry; however, he was aware of the mounting world interest in being the first to build a high-altitude rocket and consequently was extremely protective of his designs. Later discoveries showed that some internal designs in Germany's famous V-2 rockets were suspiciously similar to Goddard's, though as years passed, the similarities were declared coincidental. Goddard, however, went to his grave believing otherwise.

On December 30, 1930, Goddard achieved his highest launch so far with his first flight in Roswell. His rocket attained an altitude of 2,000 feet (610 m) in seven seconds. Goddard recorded the event as a successful flight, though the typical instability continued to plague his rockets. Goddard realized there was an urgent need for a solution to keeping the rocket on course. What use was there for a rocket if it did not arrive at a desired destination?

Goddard soon completed a design for a gyroscopic stabilizer and integrated it into his rocket engine. When the rocket began to veer, theoretically the gyroscope would tip in the opposite direction, adjusting the vanes mounted near the exhaust and causing the rocket to tip back into the proper direction. By 1932, he launched his first rocket equipped with a gyroscopic stabilizer. The height achieved by this rocket was a disappointment, but the directional vanes worked, keeping the rocket on course! Goddard had just achieved a major advancement in rocket self-guidance.

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