Thesis ID: CBB088643245

The First Space Race, 1914-1933: How the Press Shaped Spaceflight (2021)


Scholarship in the history of science, technology, and society has extensively examined the influence of American rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard. This thesis will focus on American and international media reactions to Robert Goddard and his 1919 manuscript, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. Goddard’s seminal paper and the public attention it garnered between 1919-1920 serves as the basis for this socio-cultural study of early spaceflight and rocketry. During the 1920s, American, German, and Russian societies exhibited vastly different cultural, academic, and scientific norms. While media criticism of Goddard’s work subverted the formation of an American spaceflight culture in the early 1920s, the same publicity effectively enhanced the credibility of Goddard’s work in Germany and Russia. In the United States, headlining stories capturing Goddard’s proposed “moon-going-rocket” became the subject of criticism and mockery. However, in the years following 1929, media tones shifted away from the previous dismissal and mockery of Goddard's rocketry research. With new developments in German rocketry emerging, the American public’s attention, interests, and concern focused on European technological advancements. By the late 1920s, rocketry emerged as the next logical step in ballistic military technology, fueled by Goddard’s research. Through the lens of 1920s American media, Goddard's rocketry research was transformed from a Jules Verne-inspired work of science fiction to a closely guarded matter of national security.

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Authors & Contributors
Gainor, Christopher
Andrews, James T.
Ball, Michael
Burgess, Colin
Cheng, John
Gerovitch, Slava
American Heritage of Invention and Technology
History and Technology
Journal of the British Interplanetary Society
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Physics Teacher
Science as Culture
Cornell University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Little, Brown, and Company
Palgrave Macmillan
Reaktion Books
Space travel; space flight
Rockets; rocketry
Space race
Space programs
Space research and exploration
Goddard, Robert Hutchings
Tsiolkovskii, Konstantin Eduardovich
Cabot, John
Oberth, Hermann
Von Braun, Wernher
Wells, Herbert George
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
20th century, early
Soviet Union
United States
Berlin (Germany)
Nevada (U.S.)
Silicon Valley (California)
United States Air Force (USAF)
Project Apollo (NASA)
Project Mercury (U.S.)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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