The first rockets
In order to reach space, we use a rocket-powered launcher to overcome the pull of Earth’s gravity. Other ideas have been put forward from time to time. In 1865, the science fiction writer Jules Verne suggested using a powerful gun to send people to the Moon. More recently, scientists have been studying the use of powerful magnets to send a spacecraft into orbit.
Rockets have been around a long time. They were invented in China, more than 800 years ago. The first rockets were very simple – a cardboard tube packed with gunpowder and attached to a guide stick - similar to the fireworks we use today.
In 1232, the Chinese used these 'fire arrows' to defeat the invading Mongol army. The knowledge of how to make rockets soon spread to the Middle East and Europe, where they were also used as weapons. Later, they also became popular for spectacular firework displays.
Last update: 16 December 2004