Rockets and Missiles

The rocket, a reaction-propulsion device that carries all of its propellants internally, has been around for almost a millennium since its invention in China. But the twentieth-century saw a technological explosion of new rocket-propulsion systems, using both solid and liquid propellants. Rocket-powered vehicles were developed for two primary purposes: spaceflight and weaponry. Guided missiles also appeared in the mid-twentieth century with air-breathing propulsion systems, and these are included in the National Air and Space Museum’s Rockets and Missiles collection. Among its highlights are: the world’s best collection of artifacts from American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard, an extensive collection of German World War II missile and rocket artifacts, a large number of American Cold War missiles and launch vehicles, and rocket engines from small thrusters to a gigantic F-1 motor from the Saturn V Moon rocket.