Astronomy

Pioneers of the missile

Pioneers of the missile

In the period from the end of the 19th century to the Second World War, at least four pioneers of missile and astronautics must be remembered: Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, in Russia; Robert H. Goddard, in the USA; Hermann Oberth, in Germany; Robert Esnault-Pelterie, in France.

Tsiolkovsky was born in Izev in September 1857. Mathematician and physicist, in 1898 he proposed for the first time the use of liquid fuels instead of the solids used until now, advancing the idea that the rockets could be powered by liquefied hydrogen and oxygen, or by liquid oxygen and hydrocarbons (precisely as is the case today).

In his revolutionary studies, Tsiolkovsky also indicated the fundamental lines of the law by which the final speed of the rockets depends on the fuel reserve and the expulsion rate of the flue gases. His writings were published in 1923, but in those years Russia was agitated by serious economic, social and political problems, so his great research fell into the general indifference of scientists and laymen.

Only after the October Revolution Tsiolkovsky found stimuli from the authorities to continue his studies and experiments until 1935, the year he died. In addition to having made a liquid fuel rocket model in 1930, the Russian scientist managed to prepare the calculations to launch a satellite in Earth orbit.

Also beyond the ocean, in the US, another pioneer of the missile did not find much welcome to his studies: Robert Hutchings Goddard. Born in 1882 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Goddard was a professor at Clarke University and until 1920 dealt with solid fuel rockets. From that year on, the scientist dedicated himself to rockets with liquid fuel and, on the historic day of March 16, 1926, launched the first rocket engine powered by oxygen and burning oil.

Many others followed this first experiment and Goddard invented the system for automatic stabilization of the missiles, using gyroscopes and guides mounted at the exit of the discharge nozzles. Goddard with his missiles managed to reach the height of 2,750 m. and a maximum speed of 880 km / hour. His works, as has been said, did not arouse great enthusiasm in his contemporaries and only after the beginning of the Second World War could he see the practical application of the principles he had proposed many years before. Goddard died in August 1945.

Hermann Oberth, born in Hermannstadt in 1894, carried out scientific and technological research in the missile. In 1917 he proposed to the German minister of war to use rockets with long-range liquid fuel as a weapon of war, but his idea is not heard. From their studies came the first true rockets, the V2 of which, after the war, Russian and American space vehicles would be born.

Contemporary of these three pioneers was the Frenchman Robert Esnault-Pelterie. Born in Paris in 1881, graduated in science, with his studies he established serious scientific bases for aviation considering it as a fact of transition for astronautics. In 1930 he published "Astronautics", in which he collected all the knowledge acquired so far in this field. Pelterie died in December 1957. The dreams of the astronautics he had advocated in his works were beginning to become a reality: shortly before, on October 4, 1957, the Russians had put into orbit the Sputnik, the first artificial satellite.

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