The Rocket Launch 90 Years Ago That Paved the Way for NASA

PHOTO: American physicist Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard stands next to the first liquid-propelled rocket prior to its launch in Auburn, Massachusetts on March 16, 1926.PlayHulton Archive/Getty Images
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The launch of a liquid-filled rocket 90 years ago today ushered in a modern era of rocket science and would three decades later lead to the formation of NASA.

While rockets had not changed for centuries and relied on solid fuel, such as gun powder, Robert Goddard, a Massachusetts physicist, dreamed of creating a liquid-fueled rocket. He spent 17 years tinkering with his design, finding a way to mix fuel with oxygen so it would burn fast enough and create enough thrust to launch the rocket.

He launched his creation on March 16, 1926 -- a surprisingly quiet event, according to NASA, compared to the roar of today's rockets.

Goddard didn't live to see the advent of space exploration, but his discovery had a remarkable impact in shaping the curiosity people had about space and the desire to create an agency -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- that would one day lead the charge. His test 90 years ago lives on in the foundation of the rockets that took humans to the moon and rockets used to this day, according to NASA.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is named in his honor.