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Discovery Channel Magazine, August 2014

The all-American boy who faced expulsion for nearly blowing up his school. The Russian who spent years in Stalin’s gulags before emerging to spearhead the Soviet space effort. And the Nazi who turned his attentions from raining bombs down on civilians to putting Americans on the moon. They are the rocket men, and their stories, while so remarkably different, are all intertwined with one another.

Our story starts with the earliest of them: Robert Goddard, remembered today as the father of modern rocket propulsion. He wasn’t the first to come up with the theories of rocketry – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was proposing the idea of liquid-fuelled rockets before the Soviet Union, which would eventually launch them, even existed – but Goddard was the first to send such a rocket aloft. NASA writes today: “The flight of Goddard’s rocket on March 16, 1926 at Auburn, Massachusetts, was as significant to history as that of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.”

For any genius, there is a spark that gets them going; for Goddard, there were two. The first, when he was five, came when his father showed him how to generate static electricity on the family carpet. And the second was a daydream when he was 17, when he climbed a cherry tree to lop its boughs and was captivated by the sky.

Chris Wright
Chris Wright
Chris is a journalist specialising in business and financial journalism across Asia, Australia and the Middle East. He is Asia editor for Euromoney magazine and has written for publications including the Financial Times, Institutional Investor, Forbes, Asiamoney, the Australian Financial Review, Discovery Channel Magazine, Qantas: The Australian Way and BRW. He is the author of No More Worlds to Conquer, published by HarperCollins.

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