Background information to accompany our Rocket show.

Rocket Show

A Brief History of Rockets

1st Century

The Chinese created an early form of gunpowder used mostly for fireworks for celebrations and festivals. The Chinese began to fill bamboo tubes with the gunpowder and attach the tubes to arrows which would cause the arrow to propel large distances and from this the first rockets were born.

17th Century

Issac Newton described his Laws of Motion and these went a long way to us understanding the science behind the motion of rockets and many other things.                                                                         

Early 20th Century

The Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (Society for space travel) led to the development of the V2 rocket under the directorship of Wernher von Braun. This infamous rocket was used as a weapon in World War Two against the Allied forces.



Mid 20th Century -The space race begins

1957: The Soviet Union launch Sputnik 1, an earth orbiting artificial satellite.
Jan 1958: The United States launched Explorer 1.
Oct 1958: The United States formally organised its space program 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 the planets. 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 forefather of gravity
• He has a whole section of physics named after him

Isaac Newton was the father of modern physics with some of the most important discoveries and realisations to have ever been made in science. Find out even more about Newton by looking at this short biography or by meeting our drama character Sir Isaac Newton

Launchpad links

Have a go at launching your very own Hydrogen Rocket in the Launchpad gallery and if you’re lucky, you might be picked as a volunteer to launch your very own water rocket in one of our explainer-led Water Rocket demonstrations. Have a go at Message Blaster or Air Cannon, to see how air pressure can send objects flying.

Museum Links

• Find out more about Rockets and space travel by visiting our Exploring Space gallery where we have loads of cool objects including the V2 Rocket. If you'd like to find out more about Exploring Space, then check out our new tour.

• And check out the real Apollo 10 capsule in our Making of the Modern World gallery.

• Experience for yourself being part of the ground breaking Apollo missions in our 4D cinema Legend of Apollo adventure.

• Blast off to space to see the building of the International Space Station in breathtaking 3D in our IMAX film Space Station or journey through distant galaxies on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope in Hubble 3D.  


Have a look at launching your very own alcaseltzer rocket or making some cool rocket mice.  

Museum Shop

Check out the cool space products in the Museum shop.

Related Links