The Beginnings: Goddard and Oberth, 1926–1945

J. D. Hunley

in Preludes to U.S. Space-Launch Vehicle Technology

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780813031774
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038551 | DOI:
The Beginnings: Goddard and Oberth, 1926–1945

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This chapter introduces the two rocket pioneers who had the greatest influence on American missiles and launch vehicles: the American physicist and rocket experimenter Robert H. Goddard and the Romanian-German rocket theorist, Hermann Oberth. Both were fascinating characters with highly inventive minds. Although Goddard's innovations foreshadowed many later rocket technologies, his failure to publish many details of his research and development during his lifetime limited his influence. Oberth published his more theoretical conceptions in greater detail and had real influence on Wernher von Braun and other Germans who developed the V-2 missile before and during World War II and then moved to the United States. Through them, Oberth arguably had greater influence on U.S. missile and launch-vehicle development than did Goddard. But it can also be argued that they had a synergistic effect, with Goddard providing an example of how to develop rockets, at least to a point, while Oberth provided more theoretical details about rocket development in sources that he published early enough for them to be consulted by early rocket developers.

Keywords: Robert H. Goddard; Hermann Oberth; rocket technology; rocket development; American missiles; launch vehicles

Chapter.  12556 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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