History of Rocketry

Courtesy of Estes Industries & NASA Spacelink


The student will be able to:
    • Understand and explain the origin of rocketry.
    • Identify significant people in the history of rocketry.
    • Understand and explain how rocketry led to spaceflight.


Rockets are the oldest form of self-contained vehicles in existence. Ancient rockets were in use more than two thousand years ago. Over a long and exciting history, rockets have evolved into mighty vehicles capable of launching a spacecraft that can travel out into the galaxy beyond our solar system. Few experiences can compare with the excitement and thrill of watching a rocket-powered vehicle such as the Space Shuttle thunder into space.
One of the interesting facts about the historical development of rockets is that while rockets and rocket-powered devices have been in use for more than two thousand years, it has been only in the past three hundred that rocket experimenters have had a scientific basis for understanding how they work.
Students are interested in rockets. Rockets are exciting. They thunder, roar, and shoot flames. They carry machines and humans off the Earth and into space (the only kind of transportation now able to accomplish that). It is only natural that dreams of rocket flight to distant worlds fire the imagination of students.


Materials needed for each student:
    • A copy of the worksheet Rocket Power that corresponds with the video of the same name.
    • A copy of the text, A Brief History of Rocketry.
    • A journal (paper) in which students will record their experiences and answers to specific questions asked in this unit.
    • A folder (notebook) for the materials and sheets that will be accumulated during this unit.

Materials needed for this lesson:
    • A copy of Rockets - A Teaching Guide for an Elementary Science Unit on Rocketry, distributed by NASA Spacelink.
    • The hour long video, "Frontiers of Flight - Rocket Power," produced by the Discovery Channel and distributed by Columbia House Video.
    • A collection of books and articles on the history of rocketry (may be checked out from school library).

    1. Distribute to the students the text, "A Brief History of Rocketry." Discuss with them the ancient history of rockets and how they have been used in the past.
    2. Before showing the video, distribute the worksheet "Rocket Power." Explain to the students that the questions listed on the worksheet are answered by the video.
    3. Show the video, "Frontiers of Flight - Rocket Power."
    4. After the video, discuss the questions on the worksheet. Ask the students to respond to the following questions in their journal;
    5. What American was important in the development of rockets?
    6. What significant advances in rocketry were made during WW II?
    7. The class should develop a timeline of significant events in the history of rocketry. Students should record this timeline in their journal.


Review the contributions of the following scientists; Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, Oberth and von Braun.


Satisfactory completion of the "Rocket Power" worksheet.


Each student should select (or be assigned) an event from the class-developed timeline for which additional research should be completed.
After completing the research (1 week), each student should make a brief presentation on the specific event that they selected or were assigned.

Lesson Plans