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October 5 marks the birthday of Robert Hutchings Goddard, known as the “Father of Modern Rocketry.”
It started in a cherry tree
In October 1899, a 17-year-old Goddard climbed a cherry tree in Central Massachusetts armed with a saw and a hatchet so he could cut off some dead tree limbs.
“It was one of the quiet, colorful afternoons of sheer beauty which we have in October in New England,” Goddard later wrote, “And as I looked towards the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars.”
People thought he was crazy, but he pressed on with his ideas and received his first two rocket-related patents in 1914.
That was just the beginning.
Here’s NASA’s list of just some of Goddard’s later contributions to missilery and space flight
- Explored the practicality of using rocket propulsion to reach high altitudes, even the moon (1912)
- Proved that a rocket will work in a vacuum, that it needs no air to push against
- Developed and fired a liquid fuel rocket (March 16, 1926, Auburn, Mass.)
- Shot a scientific payload in a rocket flight (1929, Auburn, Mass.)
- Used vanes in the rocket motor blast for guidance (1932, New Mexico)
- Developed gyro control apparatus for rocket flight (1932, New Mexico)
- Received U.S. patent for of multi-stage rocket (1914)
- Developed pumps suitable for rocket fuels
- Launched a rocket with a motor pivoted on gimbals under the influence of a gyro mechanism (1937)
Long after he died, Goddard did get to the moon. Sort of.
When Buzz Aldrin went to the Moon on Apollo 11 in 1969, he took along two tiny, credit card sized copies of Goddard’s autobiography.
These were the first books flown to the moon and one copy now resides in a vault at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Goddard was born in Worcester; was both a student and an instructor at Clark University; and is buried in Worcester.
In 1966, a time capsule with a great deal of Goddard memorabilia, including eight of Goddard’s patents and letters between Goddard and science-fiction writer H.G. Wells, was placed in the concrete floor of the Goddard Library at Clark University to be opened in 2466.
The time capsule also contains a long list of “Space Age” material, including packets of space food from NASA (tuna fish, bacon strips, banana pudding, coconut squares, beef sandwiches, cereal cubes and chicken bites) and “Items Representing Contemporary Life” from 1966, including tranquilizer pills, a miniskirt, a Beatles Record, a package of filter-tip cigarettes and copy of Playboy.
Make sure to see this historic mural at STL Airport
August 13, 2020 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the dedication ceremony unveiling the Black Americans In Flight mural that now hangs in Terminal One (T1) at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL).
The five-panel mural is eight feet tall and 51 feet long. It pays tribute to African-American Achievements in Aviation from 1917 onward.
Included in the historic mural are 75 portraits, 18 aircraft, five unit patches, and one spacecraft.
In 1986 the Committee for the Aviation Mural Project Success (CAMPS) commissioned St. Louis artist Spencer Taylor to create the mural.
The initial assignment was to honor St. Louis African-American pilots that flew in World War II, also known as Tuskegee Airmen. But Taylor worked with another local artist, Solomon Thurman, and expanded the mural to include the much broader story of African-Americans in aviation and the history they made.
Notable people featured in the mural
A few of the notable people you can spot in the mural include:
Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. On September 2, 1941, David became the first African-American to solo an aircraft as an officer of the U.S. Army Air Corp.
Capt. Wendell O. Pruitt. A St. Louis native, Pruitt was one-half of the famed “Gruesome Twosome.” Capt. Pruitt along and Capt. Lee Archer are considered the most successful pair of Tuskegee pilots in terms of air victories. Both men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Capt. Marcella A. Hayes. Hayes is the first African-American woman to complete U.S. Army pilot training in 1979. Following her training, she became an Army helicopter pilot.
Capt. Edward J. Dwight, Jr. He is the first African-American candidate for NASA’s space program.
Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D. McNair was a specialist aboard the fatal launch of the Challenger space shuttle in January of 1986.
Mae C. Jemison, M.D. She is the first African-American female astronaut.
In 2017, STL held an event to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the mural’s installation. COVID-19 means no formal ceremony or event can take place now, for the 30th anniversary.
If you can’t visit STL right now and see this mural in person, you can find more information about it on the STL website. There’s also a report on the time Lt. Colonel Marcella Ng (formerly Capt. Marcella Hayes) visited St. Louis and got her first chance to see her portrait in the mural and meet with one of the artists.
One nice perk of visiting lots of airports is getting to see great art and history exhibits, even if your trip doesn’t leave much time to hang out in many museums around town.
We miss that right now. But we are glad airports continue to share their fresh exhibits with us online.
A great example:
In California, the John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County now has an exhibit featuring aviation memorabilia and historical artifacts highlighting the history of women in aviation.
The displays include items that date back to the early 1900s.
The exhibit is put together by the Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots and tells the history of women pilots and aviation pioneers including Amelia Earhart, who was the first president of the Ninety-Nines.
The group was established in 1929 by 99 women pilots. The group name represents the 99 charter members who became the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots.
Look for this exhibit at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in the Vi Smith Gallery on the Departure (upper) Level in Terminal C across from Gate 14.
(Photos courtesy John Wayne Airport)
Two airports celebrate dedication anniversaries this week: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
70 years ago, on June 24, 1950, President Harry S. Truman officially dedicated Friendship International Airport, which is now known as Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
11 years later, then-Vice President Lynden B. Johnson was on hand on June 25, 1961 for the dedication of the Jet Age terminals at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
A few years later, in 1964, Lucille Ball was at LAX to inaugurate the first “Astroway” – or moving walkway – at LAX .