Monday, February 27, 2006

100 Years and a Few Miles Away

I'm reading the 2003 book Rocket Man by David A. Clary, subtitled "Robert H. Goddard and the Birth of the Space Age." It's interesting on two levels for me. One is the obvious one, that Goddard was a true pioneer in the early development of liquid rockets, as well as in his ideas about the possibilities of space flight. The other point is that I live quite near Worcester, Massachusetts, which is where Goddard was born and spent most of his life. He went to school at South High and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, then got his Ph.D. and became a professor at Clark University, all within a perhaps 10 km of where I sit. So he was a local boy, which is kinda cool. I also wrote a little about him in an earlier post when I was playing in Orbiter with Mark Paton's cool Early Rockets add-on.

Early in the book, Goddard was a student at WPI, still living at home. Every evening he spent hours writing in his journals, often about the possibilities of space flight, about which he was optimistic, sometimes wildly so. But he also got discouraged at times. In March 1906, a hundred years and a few miles from here, he wrote that he had "decided today that space navigation is a physical impossibility." Fortunately he continued to study and work on the problems, and by 1909 had decided that rockets could do the job. Of course he spent most of the rest of his life developing them. I know you can't hear me Bob, but just for the record, it has worked out pretty damn well. We're still not where you thought we would be by this time, but we're working on it!

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