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Open seven days a week, 10.00 - 18.00. Entry is free*.

The Rocket Show

A Brief History of Rockets

1st Century

The Chinese invented an early form of gunpowder which they used to create fireworks for celebrations and festivals. Bamboo tubes were filled with the gunpowder and attached to arrows, causing the arrows to propel for great distances when the powder was ignited. These were the first rockets ever made.

17th Century

Issac Newton described his Laws of Motion, which greatly deepened our understanding of the science behind the motion of rockets, as well as many other things.

Early 20th Century

The Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel) developed the V2 rocket under the directorship of Wernher von Braun. This infamous rocket was used as a weapon against the Allied forces during the Second World War.

Mid 20th Century -The space race begins

1957: The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, an earth-orbiting artificial satellite.

Jan 1958: The United States launched its first satellite, Explorer 1.

Oct 1958: The United States formally organised its space programme by creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Soon, many people and machines were being launched into space. Astronauts orbited Earth and landed on the Moon. Robot spacecraft travelled to other planets in our solar system. Satellites enabled scientists to investigate our world, forecast the weather, and to communicate instantaneously around the globe.

Factfile: Isaac Newton


Born: 25 December 1642  
Died: 20 March 1727
Place of Birth: Woolsthorpe-by-Coltsworth, Lincolnshire, England
Profession: Physician, Mathematician, Astronomer, Natural Philosopher, Alchemist, Christian Theologian

Claims to fame:   

  • Named all of the colours in the colour spectrum / rainbow after experimenting with white light and prisms
  • The founding father of gravity
  • Has a whole area of physics named after him

Isaac Newton was the father of modern physics, having made some of the most important scientific realisations and discoveries in history. Find out more about him by reading this short biography

Museum Links

  • Find out more about rockets and space travel by visiting our Exploring Space gallery where you'll find loads of amazing objects including the V2 Rocket
  • If you'd like to find out more about Exploring Space, then check out the gallery tour
  • Make sure you see the real Apollo 10 capsule in our Making the Modern World gallery
  • Experience for yourself what it was like to be a part of the ground breaking Apollo missions in our 4D cinema Legend of Apollo adventure


Have a go at launching your very own Alka Seltzer rocket or making some cool rocket mice 

Museum Shop

Check out the brilliant space products in the Museum shop