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Deep Impact: Robert Goddard and the Soviet 'Space Fad' of the 1920s

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Abstract:

Using newly available information from Russian archives, this paper explores American rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard's relationship to the Soviet space-flight advocacy community in the 1920s. In post-Revolutionary Russia, Goddard enjoyed a curious kind of fame. News of his alleged plan to launch a rocket to the Moon permeated widely through a Soviet audience interested in the possibility of space exploration. Goddard's practical work in developing rockets became a metaphor for the aspirations of the many in Soviet Russia who were unwilling to limit their horizons to theory and prognostication. The new research into Goddard's relationship to the Soviet space-flight enthusiast community underscores how international contacts shaped the space advocacy movements of the early twentieth century. The new evidence prompts us to consider an alternative approach to the 'foundation myth' of space history involving Tsiolkovskii, Goddard and Oberth, one that privileges an international context instead of the usual multiple national contexts.

Keywords: 1920s; America; Popularization; Robert Goddard; Soviet Union; Spaceflight

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0734151042000240782

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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