earth to (so)

From the Earth to the Moon

From the Earth to the Moon (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 a Frenchman and two well-to-do members of a post-American Civil War gun club who build an enormous sky-facing columbiad 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 named the Columbiad; the Apollo 11 command module 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 from the earth's equator. In the book Florida and Texas compete for the launch, with Florida winning.)

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 aimed exclusively to the design of weapons of all kind (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, the captain Nicholl, designer of anti-projectiles protection, 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 all countries in America and Europe, in which the mission reaches variable success (while the USA gives 4 million dollars, England doesn't give a coin, since they are on Captain Nicholl's side), but in the end nearly five and a half million dollars are raised, which secures the possibility of building the needed things.

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 merdian of Washington that is ), the Gun-Club travels there and starts the construction of the Columbiad cannon, which requires the excavation of a nine-hundred-feet-deep and sixty-feet-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 that would suppose 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. '''

Technical feasibility of a space cannon

In his 1903 publication on space travel, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky refuted Verne's idea of using a canon for spacetravel. He concluded that a gun would have to be impossibly long. A gun the length of the Eiffel Tower, he calculated, would subject the payload to about 1000g of acceleration.

Gerald Bull and the Project HARP proved after 1961 that a cannon can shoot a 180 kg projectile up to 180 kilometers of height and reach 32 percent of the needed escape velocity. Additionally, during the Plumbbob nuclear test series, a 900 kg capping plate made of steel was blasted away. Myths say that it entered outer space because it did reach a speed of between two and six times the escape velocity, but engineers believe it melted in the atmosphere.

Influence on popular culture

The novel was adapted as the opera Le voyage dans la lune in 1875, with music by Offenbach.

In H. G. Wells' 1901 The First Men in the Moon (also relating to the first voyagers to the Moon) the protagonist, Mr. Bedford, mentions Verne's novel to his companion, Professor Cavor, who replies (in a possible dig at Verne) that he does not know what Bedford is referring to.

The novel (along with Wells' The First Men in the Moon) inspired the first science fiction film, A Trip to the Moon, made in 1902 by Georges Méliès. In 1958, another film adaptation of this story was released, titled From the Earth to the Moon. It was one of the last films made under the RKO Pictures banner. The story also became the basis for the very loose adaptation Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon (1967), a caper-style British comedy starring Burl Ives and Terry-Thomas.

The ride Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune, in Disneyland Paris, was originally based loosely on this novel, the ambience being that of the book being noted throughout the ride with its rivet and boiler plate effect. The ride includes the "Columbiad", which recoils with a bang of smoke as each car passes, giving riders the perception of being shot into space. The ride was refurbished in 2005 as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth and is now called Space Mountain: Mission Two. Although the exterior of the ride was left with the original theme, the interior of the ride and the story line were changed, but the Baltimore Gun Club and Columbiad Cannon logos remain.

In 1995 the BBC made a documentary about the creation of Space Mountain, called "Shoot For The Moon". The 44-minute programme followed Tim Delaney and his team in bringing the book From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne to life. The programme shows the development of the attraction, from conception over construction up to testing and fine-tuning the final attraction, including its soundtrack. The documentary, originally broadcast on BBC2 in the UK, was also aired on other channels in many countries.

The Space Mountain ride is also located next to the walk-through ride "Les Mystères du Nautilus" based on Walt Disney's adaptation of Jules Verne's other famous literary work Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

The novel and its sequel were the inspiration for the computer game Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne.

Among its other homages to classic science fiction, an issue of Planetary involved the Planetary group finding that the Gun Club had been successful in launching the projectile, but that a miscalculation led to a slowly decaying orbit over the decades with the astronauts long dead from lack of air and food.

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