Urbin Report

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Old Habits Die Hard

On this day in 1920, an editorial in the New York Times declared that rocket-powered spaceflight was impossible.

The sensationalism and merciless attack by the New York Times and other newspapers left a profound impression on Robert Goddard who became secretive about his work (to detriment of development of rocketry in the United States) and shied publicity.

(Ephasis mine.)

Gee, thanks comrades!

The NYT did eventually print a retraction of their trashing of Dr. Goddard, on July 17, 1969, after the launch of the Apollo 11 mission:

A Correction. On Jan. 13, 1920, "Topics of the Times," and editorial-page feature of the The New York Times, dismissed the notion that a rocket could function in vacuum and commented on the ideas of Robert H. Goddard, the rocket pioneer, as follows:

"That Professor Goddard, with his 'chair' in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react - to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

It would be nice if they would, you know, retract a few more things they printed about the Soviets and other Marxist trash...