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Rockets - Windows to the Universe

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Rockets create thrust by burning fuel within a confined space and expelling the exhaust gases through a small opening, pushing the rocket in the other direction. They are able to generate the high speeds necessary to leave Earth's gravitational field and travel into space.

The earliest evidence of rockets is from 1045 A.D. by the Chinese who used them in their military tactics. The destructiveness and range of rockets soon made them popular in other Asian countries and throughout Europe. By World War II, technology had developed liquid propulsion systems which were more efficient than solid fuels like gunpowder, and revolutionized rocketry.

The 1942 launch of a German rocket which hit a target 120 miles away marked the beginning of the space age. Since then, continuing research by the U.S. and Soviet space programs has resulted in more and more powerful rockets. Today, rockets make space travel possible throughout the entire solar system.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF