by Jules Vernes
AUDIO BOOK - CD-ROM - mp3
From the Earth to the Moon (French: De la Terre à la Lune, 1865) is a humorous science fantasy novel by Jules Verne and is one of the earliest entries in that genre. It tells the story of the president of a post-American Civil War gun club in Baltimore, his rival, a Philadelphia maker of armor, and a Frenchman, who build an enormous sky-facing Columbiad space gun and launch themselves in a projectile/spaceship from it to a Moon landing.
The story is also notable in that Verne attempted to do some rough calculations as to the requirements for the cannon and, considering the total lack of any data on the subject at the time, some of his figures are surprisingly close to reality. However, his scenario turned out to be impractical for safe manned space travel since a much longer muzzle would have been required to reach escape velocity while limiting acceleration to survivable limits for the passengers.
The story bears similarities to the real-life Apollo program:
* Verne's cannon was called Columbiad; the Apollo 11 command module (Apollo CSM) was named Columbia.
* The spacecraft crew consisted of three persons in each case.
* The physical dimensions of the projectile are very close to the dimensions of the Apollo CSM.
* Verne's voyage blasted off from Florida, as did all Apollo missions. (Verne correctly states in the book that objects launch into space most easily if they are launched towards the zenith of a particular location, and that the zenith would better line up with the moon's orbit from near the Earth's equator. In the book Florida and Texas compete for the launch, with Florida winning.)
* The names of the crew, Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl, are vaguely similar to Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell, the crew of Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to travel to the moon, although it didn't actually land.
The character of "Michel Ardan" in the novel was inspired by Nadar.
It's been some time since the end of the American Civil War. The Gun Club, a society based in Baltimore and dedicated to the design of weapons of all kinds (especially cannons), meets when Impey Barbicane, its president, calls them to support his idea: according to his calculations, a cannon can shoot a projectile so that it reaches the moon. After receiving the whole support of his companions, a few of them meet to decide the place from where the projectile will be shot, the dimensions and makings of both the cannon and the projectile, and which kind of powder are they to use.
An old enemy of Barbicane, a Captain Nicholl of Philadelphia, designer of plate armor, declares that the enterprise is absurd and makes a series of bets with Barbicane, each of them of increasing amount over the impossibility of such feat.
The first obstacle, the money, and over which Nicholl has bet 1000 dollars, is raised from most countries in America and Europe, in which the mission reaches variable success (while the USA gives 4 million dollars, England doesn't give a farthing, being envious of the United States in matters of science), but in the end nearly five and a half million dollars are raised, which ensures the financial feasibility of the project.
After deciding the place for the launch (Stone's Hill in "Tampa Town", Florida; predating Kennedy Space Center's placement in Florida by almost 100 years; Verne gives the exact position as 27°7' northern latitude and 5°7' western longitude, of course relative to the meridian of Washington that is 27°7′0″N 82°9′0″W / 27.116667°N 82.15°W / 27.116667; -82.15 ), the Gun Club travels there and starts the construction of the Columbiad cannon, which requires the excavation of a nine hundred foot deep and sixty foot wide circular hole, which is made in the nick of time, but a surprise awaits Barbicane: Michel Ardan, a French adventurer, plans to travel aboard the projectile.
During a meeting between Ardan, the Gun Club and the inhabitants of Florida, Nicholl appears and challenges Barbicane to a duel, which is successfully stopped when Ardan, warned by J. T. Maston, secretary of the Gun Club, meets the rivals in the forest they have agreed to duel in. Meanwhile, Barbicane finds the solution to the problem of surviving the incredible acceleration that the explosion would cause. Ardan suggests Barbicane and Nicholl to travel with him in the projectile, and the offer is accepted.
In the end, the projectile is successfully launched, but the destinies of the three astronauts are left inconclusive. The sequel, Around the Moon, deals with what happens to the three men in their travel from the Earth to the Moon.
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