Scientists believe that the Chinese invented rockets, but they do not know exactly when. In 1243 A.D., the Chinese armies used "arrows of flying fire" which are considered the forerunners of the modern rocket. By 1300, the use of rockets had spread throughout much of Asia and Europe. These first rockets burned a substance called black powder which consisted of charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur. During the early 1800's, the British developed rockets that could carry explosives. Some of these rockets weighed as much as 60 pounds and could travel about 2 miles. They were first used against
Army during the War of 1812. The accuracy of military rockets was improved by William Hale, an English inventor. He interchanged three fins for the long wooden tail that had been used to guide the rocket. This improved version was used during the American Civil War in 1861-1865. The theory of rocket power was first stated by a Russian teacher, Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky in 1903. In 1926, Robert H. Goddard, an American scientist, conducted the first successful launch of a liquid-propellant rocket. The rocket reached a height of 184 feet and a speed of about 60 miles per hour. Rocket research continued during the 1930's in Germany, Russia, and the . During World War II, German rocketeer under the direction of Wernher von Braun developed the powerful V-2 guided missile. These were used extensively during the last months of the war. After the war, von Braun and more than 200 other German scientists came to the United States to continue their rocketry work. The first high-altitue rockets designed and built in the United States included the WAC Corporal Aerobee, and the Viking. They were able to reach an altitude of about 50 miles during test flights. Rockets developed by the United States armed forces during the 1950's included the Jupiter and the Pershing having a range of about 1600 miles and traveling about 450 miles. A rocket-powered airplane was flown by Charles E. Yeager of the U.S. Air Force in 1947. He flew the X-1 and made the first supersonic flight. Another rocket engine plane, the Skyrocket, set an airplane altitude record of 15 miles in 1951 and a speed record of 1325 miles per hour. The Space Age began on Oct. 5, 1957, when Russia launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, 1, with a three-stage rocket. On Jan. 31, 1958, the United States Army launched the first American satellite, Explorer I, into orbit with a Juno I rocket. In 1961, a Russian rocket put a man, Major Yuri A, Gagarin, into orbit around the earth for the first time. On May 5, 1961, a Redstone rocket launched Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the first American to travel in space.