Robert Hutchings Goddard Collection

Robert H. Goddard Collection of Liquid-Propellant Rocketry

Goddard Galleries & Workshop Recreation

Robert Hutchings Goddard (1882-1945) was a pioneer in American rocketry, becoming one of the first to experiment with liquid fuel propulsion. The experiments he conducted in Roswell during the 1930s would influence future generations of scientists.

Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, Goddard focused his interest in science at an early age. In 1898, he became captivated with H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, and “…imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars.” He began enthusiastically filling notebooks with ideas for getting off the planet. As a graduate student in physics at Clark University, he conducted simple tests with gun powder that suggested it was indeed possible to construct a rocket for space travel.

Left to right: Harry Guggenheim, Robert H. Goddard, and Charles Lindbergh

Photograph of Goddard
Early Experiments
In 1919, while teaching at Clark University, Goddard published his ideas in a paper, "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes," that sparked interest in the physics circles, but was ridiculed in the popular press. Embarrassed but undaunted, Dr. Goddard began to conduct pioneering experiments with gasoline and liquid oxygen fuels. On March 16, 1926, Goddard launched his first successful liquid-propellant rocket at his Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn, Massachusetts, with the rocket soaring 41 feet in the air and 184 feet from the tower.

Goddard & his team, Roswell, 1930s

Goddard and his team with a rocket
It was not long before these experiments drew scrutiny from the press, but Goddard also caught the attention of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) and financier Harry Guggenheim (1890-1971), who were both interested in the potential for rocket travel. With their financial support, Goddard relocated to Roswell, New Mexico, where he remained for the next twelve years. With its rural setting, flat terrain, and reasonable year-round climate, Roswell proved an ideal location for rocketry, and over the next several years Goddard and his team made major strides on practical matters of launch control, tracking, and recovery. Seventeen of fifty-six flights accomplished in Roswell reached altitudes of over 1,000 feet.
Museum Dedication
In 1942, Dr. Goddard was placed on contract at Annapolis, Maryland to develop rocket-assisted aircraft takeoff mechanisms, and died in 1945. In 1949, his widow and photographer, Esther, began donating her husband’s rocket technology to the Roswell Museum and Art Center. Ten years later, in 1959, the Museum officially dedicated its Robert H. Goddard Wing.

Goddard was a member of the Roswell Rotary Club, which has since figured prominently in the preservation of his legacy. In 1969 the Rotarians built a recreation of Goddard’s workshop. In 1995 they funded a reinterpretation of the Goddard materials, Robert Hutchings Goddard: Dreamer, Tinkerer, Pioneer.

The Goddard Workshop at the Roswell Museum & Art Center

Goddard Workshop