The Cherry Tree Incident

One October day in Worcester, shortly after his 17th birthday, Robert was alone in the orchard, intending to do some pruning. Tools in hand, he climbed a cherry tree. As he began to prune, his thoughts wandered. His hands fell idle. H. G. Wells was taking him away again. Then suddenly he had a vision. In his mind's eye, he pictured a mechanical device, one he had never imagined before. It began whirling and whirling, faster and faster, until it lifted from the ground and flew high into the atmosphere. Robert envisioned a vague shape of the vehicle, how it might function, what size it might be at a smaller scale near his feet, and that it could possibly travel all the way to Mars!

Like many sudden, creative inspirations of the human intellect, the thoughts passed quickly through Robert's mind, and soon he was back in the cherry tree, looking at the ground not far below. He smiled. This was something he must try and build! According to Milton Lehman's Robert H. Goddard: Pioneer of Space Research, Goddard's diary states that on October 19, 1889, he descended the cherry tree a different person than the one who climbed up. He wrote, "Existence at last seemed very purposive." That day later came to be known to Goddard as "Anniversary Day," the day his life shifted toward the pursuit of space flight.

By 1899, four years before the Wright brothers' first powered flight, Robert confided in one of his close friends about his dream to build a vehicle that could travel out of the atmosphere and through open space to Mars. His friend tried to explain that the laws of physics would deny such an endeavor and that the idea was preposterous.

Robert disagreed, arguing that no physical laws existed against his idea; however, he was at a loss as to where to begin with his grandiose plan. In the meantime, life was marching on. He was becoming a young man and there was his practical future to think about.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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