Konstantin Tsiolkovsky is seen as the Russian father of rocketry who developed insights for space travel and rocket science that are still widely used today – hundreds of years later. He is seen and regarded as one of the pioneers of astronautics. The really amazing part of this story is that he was entirely self-educated.
Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was part of a massive family with over 18 siblings. At age 10 he was afflicted with scarlet fever, which resulted in him losing a significant amount of his hearing and being isolated from all his peers. And by the age of 14, he was suspended from school which meant that he only ever a couple of years of formal education.
But his family knew that he had an everlasting thirst for learning, so his father sent him to Moscow when he was 16. Konstantin took advantage of the free to use Chertkovskaya Library, studying mathematics, physics, chemistry, and mechanics. This is where he discovered his love for space and interest in space travel, by stumbling upon the works of science fiction writer Jules Verne.
He even went so far to calculate Verne’s science fiction method of using a giant cannon to launch a spacecraft to the moon and concluded that the acceleration would kill its passengers. After three years in Moscow, he took the exam to qualify as a teacher. He started teaching arithmetic and geometry in a small town in Borokvsk while testing his ideas about gravitational effects.
In 1883, he published a paper about living in outer space and dealing with the effects of zero gravity which is widely studied today. He also created ideas that improved rocket steering, fuel holding and how to cool the parts of the rocket that needs to stay cool. He even predicted the need for pressurized suits if astronauts wanted to leave their spacecraft.