US missiles and rockets
Back in the 19th century, Jules Verne, a visionary French writer, made Florida the origin of his fictional journey to the Moon -- a brilliant prediction of the future role the United States would play in the history of space exploration. Jules Verne's predictions started coming true in March 1926, when America's own visionary -- Robert Goddard -- launched the world's first rocket powered by liquid propellant. As often in history, Goddard's pioneering feat was met with ridicule or indifference, leaving rocket development in the United States a low key and low budget affair.
Solid propellant rockets originally developed for military purposes later found wide applications in space flight.
It was the bloodshed of war and the threat of nuclear annihilation, rather than the dream of space flight that brought rocketry to the forefront of history. Deadly exposure to the Germany's "wonder weapons" at the end of World War II forced its winners to pay attention to the military applications of rocketry. The United States became the main keeper of the German rocket legacy and the new home for many of its German creators. As the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union escalated, missiles eventually became the weapon of choice for both sides in the a nuclear standoff between "superpowers."
Overview of US military rockets and missiles:
"Hoopskirt": Replica of the world's first liquid-propellant rocket launched by Robert Goddard on March 16, 1926. His achievements, however, were sometimes referred to as a "crock pot dream." Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
It IS rocket science: One of the most advanced rockets developed by Robert Goddard around 1940-41 sported turbopumps, which forced propellant into a high-pressure combustion chamber -- a must have feature for its successors. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2002 Anatoly Zak
David and Goliath: The WAC Corporal research rocket is displayed next to the A-4 rocket, for which it served as a second stage. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
Nuclear armageddon: The submarine-launched Regulus cruise missile, which became one of the earliest means of delivery for nuclear weapons. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
Doomsday room: Missile checkout and launch control center onboard a US Navy submarine, carrying the Regulus cruise missile. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
Rockets next door: The Nike-Ajax antiaircraft missiles were widely deployed, including in suburban New York and in New Jersey, where they would guard the metropolitan area of New York City against long-range Soviet bombers. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
Salute to the flag: The Nike-Hercules antiaircraft missile (center), designed to carry a nuclear warhead, stands as a monument in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
In one's own backyard: The Talos (top: click to enlarge) and Terrier (bottom: click to enlarge) sea-based antiaircraft missiles at the Navy museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
Standard Missile-1. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
The Tomahawk cruise missile. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
The Patriot system originated as antiaircraft missile, but was later upgraded for a limited antimissile role. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
The Harpoon missile. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2006 Anatoly Zak
The Soviet Pioneer missile (left) next to its US contemporary -- the Pershing II. Both are medium-range missiles. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak