Robert Goddard

A U.S. professor of physics and scientist, Robert Goddard was a pioneer of controlled, liquid-fueled rocketry. He launched the world's first liquid-fueled rocket on March 16, 1926. From 1930 to 1935, he launched rockets that attained speeds of up to 885 kilometers per hour (km/h) (550 miles per hour (mph)). Though his work in the field was revolutionary, he was sometimes ridiculed for his theories.

Robert Goddard received little scientific support during his lifetime. Eventually, however, he became recognized, along with Tsiolkovsky and Oberth, as one of the fathers of modern rocketry. He was the first not only to recognize the scientific potential behind missiles and space travel but also to bring about the physical design and construction of those ideas.

Liquid Fuel Rocket

National Historic Landmark

The Goddard Rocket Launching Site National Historic Landmark commemorates the site of the world's first successful liquid-fueled rocket. It is located on Upland Street in Auburn, Massachusetts within the boundaries of the town-owned Pakachoag Golf Course. The actual launch site is indicated by a granite marker adjacent to the ninth fairway of the golf course. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Dr. Goddard's launch site can still be seen today and is memorialized by a stone monument set on the ninth fairway.

Dr. Robert H. Goddard launched his historic rocket on March 16, 1926, from what was then the Asa Ward Farm. Its 10-foot cylinder reached an altitude of 41 feet, flew for two-and-a-half seconds, and fell to the ground 184 feet from the launching frame. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is one of only six National Historic Landmarks in Worcester County.

Dr. Robert H Goddard monument

Robert Goddard Timeline

  • 1882 Birth in Worcester, Massachusetts
  • 1900 US Census living with his grandmother
  • 1908 Wrote Old Tech, a musical composition
  • 1908 Graduation from Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • 1919 A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes published
  • 1924 Marriage to Esther Christine Kisk on June 21
  • 1926 First rocket launched from Auburn, Massachusetts on March 16
  • 1930 Moved to Mescalero Ranch, Roswell, New Mexico
  • 1945 Died in Baltimore, Maryland


  • When Goddard was a child, he tried making a hot air balloon out of sheets of aluminum. It didn’t work.
  • While in high school, he tried to compress graphite with hydrogen explosions, he wanted to make diamonds. At this time, he was known to keep a suitcase of TNT in his attic.
  • While attending WPI, Goddard wrote the school song, which is still used today.
  • He was sure we’d all be traveling by vacuum tube by 1950
  • In 1913, Goddard developed tuberculosis. His doctors gave him 2 weeks to live.
  • He was widely known as “Crazy Bob”
  • In 1917, while working for the Army, Goddard invented the bazooka. As it was powered by nitro glycerine, the Army needed to modify it for use. It took them 25 years to perfect the design.
  • Goddard launched 8 rockets in Auburn, including the world’s first liquid fuel rocket, with no publicity. The papers were simply not interested.
  • When Charles Lindbergh came to visit him, to check him out for funding from the Guggenheims, Bob and Esther Goddard gave him milk and chocolate cake, the only food fit for the most famous man in the world.
  • After his death, Esther Goddard got 131 patents in her husband’s name, using notes, sketches and photos she found in the house.
  • Esther became so famous in her own right, going around being sure Goddard was not forgotten, that she had a singular honor bestowed upon her in 1971. Come to the Auburn Historical Museum to see the photo of that event.