Saturday, 24 March 2012 10:06

Robert Goddard and Wernher von Braun: Men of Ideas

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Robert Goddard (1882-1945) was an American physicist and engineer who pioneered controlled liquid fueled rocketry. He launched the first liquid fueled rocket in 1926. He is the father of modern rocketry.

Our age has sent a man to the moon and is currently exploring space thanks to Goddard’s efforts in understanding rockets and launching them.

Clearly, Goddard was a man ahead of his times. In the 1920s and 1930s when he was attempting to manufacture and launch rockets the general public was not aware of what rockets were and few were interested in rockets.

It was only during the Second World War when the Germans under Wernher von Braun developed rockets that reached England from Germany with payloads that could deal devastating blows to their targets that the rest of the world took interests in rocketry.

When the Second World War ended (which was the same year that Goddard died) the United States and Russia recognized the need for rocketry and each tried to lay their hands on the German scientists and engineers responsible for  developing rockets.

The Americans grabbed Wernher von Braun and brought him to the United States where he helped develop the rocket industry.

In the late 1950s the Russians made advances in rocketry and were the first to send man to space, Yuri Gagarin, and that spurred the Americans to do the same and by the 1960s America not only went to space but placed a man on the moon (1969).

Rockets have revolutionized warfare (intercontinental ballistic missiles are rockets that carry nuclear weapons that America and Russia, and increasingly other countries, aim at each other).

Clearly, developments in rocketry are not only useful in sending men to space and exploring space but are also negative in the sense that they have enabled countries to develop the capability of launching attacks on each other from their home bases, and within thirty minutes of launch could reach every corner of the world and destroy it.

Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977) was a German engineer who developed rocketry not only in Germany but eventually in the United States of America. The history of America’s achievements in rocketry would not be complete without mentioning the role von Braun played in continuing Goddard’s work.

After the Second World War Americans scooped those Germans working on Hitler’s rockets (among other specialists they took from Germany) and brought them to work in the United States. They were settled in Texas and latter Huntsville Alabama where they developed the American rocket industry.


Robert Goddard. Rockets. (2002)

Jerry Woodfill.  Gallery of Wernher von Braun Moonship Sketches. The Space Educator’s handbook, NASA Johnson Space Center.

M.J. Neufeld. Space Superiority: Wernher von Braun’s Campaign for a nuclear-armed space station. 1946-1956. Space Policy 2006; 22:52-62

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176