History Of Rockets
Scientists believe that the Chinese invented rockets, but
they do not know exactly when. In 1243 A.D., the Chinese
armies used "arrows of flying fire" which are considered
the forerunners of the modern rocket. By 1300, the use of
rockets had spread throughout much of Asia and Europe.
These first rockets burned a substance called black powder
which consisted of charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur.
During the early 1800's, the British developed rockets that
could carry explosives. Some of these rockets weighed as
much as 60 pounds and could travel about 2 miles. They were
first used against the United States Army during the War of
The accuracy of military rockets was improved by William
Hale, an English inventor. He interchanged three fins for
the long wooden tail that had been used to guide the
rocket. This improved version was used during the American
Civil War in 1861-1865.
The theory of rocket power was first stated by a Russian
teacher, Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky in 1903. In 1926, Robert
H. Goddard, an American scientist, conducted the first
successful launch of a liquid-propellant rocket. The rocket
reached a height of 184 feet and a speed of about 60 miles
Rocket research continued during the 1930's in Germany,
Russia, and the United States. During World War II, German
rocketeer under the direction of Wernher von Braun
developed the powerful V-2 guided missile. These were used
extensively during the last months of the war. After the
war, von Braun and more than 200 other German scientists
came to the United States to continue their rocketry work.
The first high-altitue rockets designed and built in the
United States included the WAC Corporal Aerobee, and the
Viking. They were able to reach an altitude of about 50
miles during test flights. Rockets developed by the United
States armed forces during the 1950's included the Jupiter
and the Pershing having a range of about 1600 miles and
traveling about 450 miles.
A rocket-powered airplane was flown by Charles E. Yeager of
the U.S. Air Force in 1947. He flew the X-1 and made the
first supersonic flight. Another rocket engine plane, the
Skyrocket, set an airplane altitude record of 15 miles in
1951 and a speed record of 1325 miles per hour.
The Space Age began on Oct. 5, 1957, when Russia launched
the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, 1, with a
three-stage rocket. On Jan. 31, 1958, the United States
Army launched the first American satellite, Explorer I,
into orbit with a Juno I rocket. In 1961, a Russian rocket
put a man, Major Yuri A, Gagarin, into orbit around the
earth for the first time. On May 5, 1961, a Redstone rocket
launched Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the first American
to travel in space.