Ninety years ago, on March 16, 1926, a rocket lifted off – not with a bang, but with a subtle, quiet flame – and forever changed the scope of scientific exploration. This event ties directly to the birth of NASA more than 30 years later.
None of this would be possible without the experiments of Massachusetts physics professor Robert Goddard, best known for inventing the liquid-fueled rocket. The namesake of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, he dreamed as early as 1909 of creating an interplanetary vehicle. While he couldn’t achieve that in his lifetime, his inventions in the first half of the 20th century became the engineering foundation for the rockets that first took humans to the moon in the 1960s and for today’s rockets, which look further into space than ever before.
After nearly 17 years of work, Goddard successfully launched his creation on March 16, 1926.