Robert Goddard was born, educated, taught, and performed the first liquid-fuel rocket flight in Massachusetts. Why then were his later launches done in New Mexico?

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    $\begingroup$ Reduced chance of dropping a spent stage on someone's head? $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


Well, I'm sure somebody could dig up more details, but an article covering Goddard's life in this past weekend's Worcester Telegram and Gazette, "Pioneering rocket scientist Robert Goddard of Worcester vindicated 50 years ago in lunar landing" describes how he moved his operations after early experiments caused a bit of commotion:

That [first] launch was done in secret by the publicity-shy Goddard, according to The Associated Press book “Breaking News: How the Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace and Everything Else.”

The AP writes: “Three years later, on July 17, 1929, Goddard was ready to launch an 11-foot, 35-pound rocket from the farm. This time reporters were invited to watch. As the rocket rose, it emitted a tremendous roar. After topping out at 80 feet, it landed 171 feet away, the gasoline tank exploding when it hit.

“The racket was heard two miles away and convinced that a plane had crashed, police cars and ambulances converged on the scene. Goddard considered the test a success, but not the newspapers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, ‘Rocket Starts for the Moon but Blows Up on the Way.’ In the Los Angeles Times, ‘Man in Moon Turns Green.’ ”

Local fire officials put an end to the rocket launches from the Auburn hillside.

Goddard’s tests were taken seriously by the aviator Charles Lindbergh, who visited Goddard in Worcester in 1929 to discuss rocketry, and persuaded the Guggenheim Foundation to fund the scientist’s work. “Goddard moved his operation to a field near Roswell, New Mexico, where, for more than a decade, he conducted a series of increasingly sophisticated rocket experiments, with flights up to 9,000 feet and speeds approaching supersonic,” the AP writes.

People thought he was an eccentric scientist (at best), and they didn't want his explosive experiments around. In New Mexico, he got funding and it was a place people were willing to let him work.

Nowadays, of course, Auburn and Worcester are more than happy to take credit for being where Goddard launched the age of modern rocketry.

  • $\begingroup$ There's a museum in Roswell with a lot of nice Goddard artifacts. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ I went to college at WPI (several years ago now, boy does time fly), and did a paper on Goddard for my Humanities project. They have a bunch of stuff in their archives in their library, and I believe Clark University also has a lot. It's been a while since I've dug into any of this, but I want to pull up more primary sources to support this answer when I get some time. (I'm unlikely to have time anytime soon, though.) $\endgroup$
    – user16813
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 15:38

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