Goddard's bold prediction: "The liquid oxygen rocket is certain to be of use in aviation"
TLS signed “R. H. Goddard,” one page, 8.5 x 11, Mescalero Ranch, Roswell, New Mexico letterhead, January 18, 1941. Letter to Emory Lakatos. In full: “Thank you very much for suggesting that I come east and work on the pinwheel problem, should support be obtained for it. If my time could be employed to better advantage elsewhere, there would of course be no question but that I would leave here, even though we have recently purchased the ranch place here and the land on which the shop stands. We have done this for the reason that this location is undoubtedly the best that can be had for sounding rocket flights. Further, I feel that the Foundation would consent to my leaving here temporarily, with the expectation of continuing here at a later time, if possible. The feeling that I ought to continue with this rocket as long as I can arises from my belief that the liquid oxygen rocket is certain to be of use in aviation eventually. The fuel load factor is, of course, large, and some sort of turbine or augmentor would be needed until high speeds are attained, but the possibility of performance at extreme speeds and altitudes may outweigh these factors in importance. Moreover the thing already works, and the steps to be taken to make it more effective appear to be comparatively obvious. I would be glad if you would keep me informed as to how the pinwheel project takes shape. It might be possible for me to divide my time between East and West, if such an arrangement would be of any advantage, provided I could leave an able man in charge here. So far, however, I have not succeeded in getting the assistant I negotiated for on the last trip East. I do not believe I can make any suggestions until I know just what sort of motor you have decided upon. If you plan on air intake at the forward end I believe the N. A. C. A. high-speed wind tunnel, if not already in constant use, might check the combustion and avoid centrifugal difficulties, with the radial air and the gasoline forced in under pressure. If the air supply is entirely radial, a high-speed airplane engine with a dynamometer might be simplest. In any case, small-scale motors would appear to be indicated. I have not heard about Dr. Hickman’s operation, but certainly hope that in this case no news is good news.” Two words, “attained” and “already,” were added as corrections in Goddard’s hand. In fine condition, with punch holes to the left border and some soiling to the upper portion of the letter, far from the main text and signature, affecting nothing.
Goddard first began experimenting with liquid oxygen and liquid-fueled rockets in 1921, and his experiments had begun attracting increased national attention by the end of the decade—Charles Lindbergh took notice, and helped Goddard secure funding from the Guggenheim Foundation, which would sponsor his independent research for years to come. With this newfound funding, Goddard rented Mescalero Ranch in Roswell, New Mexico, which offered him privacy and was an ideal, spacious site for conducting rocket tests. Although it is unclear what the "pinwheel problem" discussed in this letter is (possibly related to impulse turbines), Goddard did indeed move "East" the following year, when he went to Annapolis to work with the Navy on 'jet assisted take off,' or JATO—a method of boosting overloaded aircraft using small rockets during take off. This work would affirm Goddard's notion that "the liquid oxygen rocket is certain to be of use in aviation." The impending World War furthered research in rocketry (Goddard suspected that the Germans had stolen his designs for use in the V-2 missile), and all of his influence and ideas would come to fruition in the coming years. Any Goddard item is quite scarce, and, given his desire for secrecy, letters directly concerning his work are especially rare and highly sought after. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.