Let us begin in the beginning and trace the activities of the people who put the space age into motion.
In the very beginning there was Isaac Newton, who taught us the Laws of Motion. Force equals mass times acceleration; to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. Newton’s objective was to understand Kepler’s Laws, to understand the motion of planets and the Moon. To make his life easier, he also invented calculus.
The modern day icons of the space age were Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Herman Oberth, and Robert Goddard, who are shown in Figure 9.1, along with their immediate scientific descendants: Sergey Korolyov in the case of Tsiolkovsky; Wernher Von Braun in the case of Oberth, and all the American space program, symbolized by NASA/JPL, from Goddard.
Tsiolkovsky was born in a small village south of Moscow; he had a Polish father and Russian mother. He was left profoundly deaf at the age of 10 from scarlet fever, but he still read widely. At age 16, his parents sent him to Moscow for study, where he existed on brown bread. The librarian at the main library provided him with a place for him to work, so that at age 19 he was able to become a high school teacher. In the early 1900s, he published a number of articles, science fantasies. However, in 1903, he published his significant article in a Russian science journal: Exploring Space with Reactive Devices.
In the center of Figure 9.1 is Herman Oberth, who at the age of 12 read Jules Vern and was strongly influenced by him; indeed all three of the space icons were influenced by Jules Vern. Oberth’s parents sent him off to study Medicine at the University of Munich. He did not like that, so he went to Heidelberg, where he wrote a Ph.D. thesis on interplanetary travel. It was not accepted by Heidelberg so he never officially got his degree. In 1923, he wrote a book, Rockets into Interplanetary Space, which sold surprisingly well. Oberth Konstantin Tsiolkovsky