In 1920 Nytimes thought that..

…space flight is impossible as there is no reaction in space to move a rocket.

*That Professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react – to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.:smiley:
In 1969 They realised that a rocket can function in vacuum as well as atmosphere.

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error."

Was it the cold war that made them overlook the success of Sputnik in 1957?

Better late than never.:wink:

Sputnik didn’t require a rocket working in vacuum, AFAIK. The rocket worked in the atmosphere and burned out before the capsule reached vacuum.

However, by 1969 there were plenty of other examples of rockets genuinely working in vacuum.

By 1969 there was probably no one left on the NY Times staff who remembered the obscure little opinion piece from 1920.

But, I’m sure some conscientious (or gleeful) citizen pointed it out to them after the first moon landing.

Not hardly. Their goof had been gleefully pointed out for decades before 1969. I sure knew about it. Retracting then was a bit of a joke, and I suppose was considered to have maximum publicity impact.