Celebration honors father of the space age

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Robert H. Goddard's first rocket soared for about 2 seconds, flew as fast as 60 mph and landed 174 feet from the lift-off pad -- a snow-covered patch of dirt in his Aunt Effie's backyard.

On Tuesday, area residents will commemorate the 100th birthday of the man who fathered the space age and re-enact that first flight at Pakachoag Hill in nearby Auburn.


Goddard, a physics professor at Clark University, envisioned space flight even then as he developed the first liquid-propellant rocket, recalled Percy M. Roope, 85, who witnessed to the March 16, 1926 flight.

The rocket stood 10 feet tall and was held by a pyramid-shaped metal frame, he said.

'It was exciting, no question about that,' he said. 'We realized we had a rocket but I did not realize that it was such a momentous occasion.'

Roope, then a student of Goodard's at Clark University, was one of the small group of people who watched that first lift-off on Aunt Effie's farm, where today stands a golf course with a bronze marker commemorating the event.

'Dr Goodard believed a rocket could get to the moon and I believed him,' said Roope, who now lives in Cambria, Calif.


Back then, he said, the science of rocketry was met with skeptism.

The three-day celebration honoring Goddard, who died in 1945, will be held at the Centrum civic center in Worcester and sponsored by Clark, the Chamber of Commerce and Worcester Polytechic Institute, where Goddard trained.

Celebration plans include a parade and exhibition on Goddard and subsequent space exploration, a service at the Clark University and dedication of Robert H. Goddard Memorial Drive at Airport Industrial Park in Worcester.

The exhibition includes a NASA exhibit of moon rocks and a replica of the device the fictinal extra-terrestrial 'E.T.' used in the popular film to communicate to his planet.

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