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Literature: From the Earth to the Moon
3....2....1.....FIRE!

From the Earth to the Moon (French: De la Terre à la Lune) is a novel published in 1865, written by Jules Verne about making a travel from the earth to the moon.

Some time after the American Civil War, members of a certain social club in Baltimore, called The Gun Club (because it consists largely of Civil War artillery officers and various defense industrialists) starts wondering what can they do in these times of peace — during the war they entertained themselves building guns that kept going bigger and bigger, but that's an expensive hobby in a peacetime.

The club members propose various wacky schemes up to starting a new war, until one of them suggest doing something that sounds impossible: shooting a giant bullet towards the moon, for no reason other than to show they can do it. Things only get more interesting when an eccentric Frenchman, Michel Ardan, asks them to shoot a hollow projectile where he can travel to the moon.

The book is known for showing off Verne’s investigation; even though Science Marches On and some things he stipulated are now known to be incorrect, he still guessed a lot of facts right. It’s even more important if you consider that, when the book was written, there was almost nothing to investigate, since nobody knew anything about space travel or the characteristics of the moon.

Five years later, Verne wrote a follow up, Around the Moon (French: Autour de la Lune), about the situations that Ardan and his two companions on the projectile, Barbicane and Nicholl, have to deal with while on their way to the moon and back. As a curious fact, the book finished in his serialized form in 1869; exactly a hundred years later, man would reach the moon.

There was also a third novel, The Purchase of the North Pole (French: Sans dessus dessous). This one doesn’t deal with the moon at all and only has the characters in common; the plot is about the Gun Club’s attempt to destabilize the Earth’s orbit in order to exploit the wealth of the North Pole, completely disregarding the well-being of the rest of the inhabitants of the Earth. That's because it was written in the Verne's later, more misanthropic period, and is largely a satire at the rampant commercialization of the world.

From the Earth to the Moon was loosely adapted into the Georges Méliès silent film A Trip to the Moon (1903), which is regarded today as a milestone in the development of Early Films.

The book has the following tropes:

  • Artistic License - Physics: The astronauts get to the moon by being shot out of a 900 foot long cannon. In order to reach sufficient velocity to reach the Moon while traveling the length of the cannon, the ship would have to accelerate at 22,000 gravities, which would squash the astronauts inside it flat no matter what precautions were taken.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Michael Ardan is asked whether it is not foolish, since there is little or no air on the Moon? "Then I will only breathe on special occasions!" he quips.
  • BFG: The cannon used to launch the projectile. It has a caliber approaching three meters.
  • Bold Explorer: Michael Ardan, who persuades the Gun Club to build a hollow shell that can carry him (and some others) to the moon.
  • Determinator: The American people. More precisely, the members of the Gun Club.
  • Duel to the Death: Nicholl challenges Barbicane to a duel with rifles. Both were late, though, for different reasons.
  • Eagleland: A Type III, the United States are portrayed as a bunch of Trigger Happy, hard-working Determinators.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: From the Earth to the Moon is about making a gun big enough to shoot a bullet from the earth to the moon. Around the Moon is about the voyage of the three astronautsnote  around the moon.
  • Gun Nut: The Gun Club. For them, a true gun started from a cannon upwards.
    J. T. Maston (upon hearing the Moon Gun should be a reasonable 225ft long): "Ridiculous! As well take a pistol."
  • Hook Hand: J. T. Maston, due to him being a Civil War veteran. The given explanation is he lost the hand and got a horrible head wound (which he covers with a guttapercha skullcap) when a giant mortar he designed exploded at first shot killing 375 men an disabling even more.
    • All but one member of the gun club are missing a limb or two. They work with explosives all the time, pre-TNT and pre-computers.
  • Human Aliens/Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The astronauts talk about how the moonmen they expect to find are and if they, in fact, exist. It’s not exactly a spoiler to say they find none.
  • Human Cannonball: Well, they at least use a vehicle here. Nevermind that the G-forces should have crushed them.
  • Interplanetary Voyage
  • Lab Pet: A 19th century inversion: in order to test whether the rocket's living compartment is secure, several animals are put inside including a cat and a pet squirrel belonging to one of the Gun Club. A week later, the compartment is opened, but the squirrel has evidently been eaten by the cat. The distraught owner wants to put its name on a monument as a martyr For Science!.
  • Large Ham: Michel Ardan and J. T. Maston.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Captain Nicholl, as Ardan and Maston find out the day of the duel.
  • The Mountains of Florida: Verne gets full marks for locating the launch site, he loses half of it for digging the gun into a hill much taller than the highest spot in the state.
  • National Anthem: "Yankee Doodle" serves as one here, since at the time, the United States didn't have an official national anthem.
  • Nobody Poops: The inside of the shell is about 2.5 meters in diameter or roughly the size of a minivan's interior, it holds 3 men and a significant quantity of luggage stowed in wall-mounted wooden cabinets for a few days. Neither the book, nor 1865 illustrations have any hint of any toilet facilities. Being the Victorian Age, nobody even asks questions.
  • Omnibus: Nowadays, the first two books are issued as one.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Again, the American people.
  • Pet the Dog: Captain Nicholl, who misses his duel with Barbicane since he stopped on the way to save a small bird who has got stuck in a tarantula's net.
  • Sequel Hook
  • Scenery Porn
  • Science Fantasy
  • Science Marches On: Some of the facts are wrong, but you can’t blame Verne for not knowing something that nobody else knew. Around the Moon in particular suffers from this, considering the book is mostly about three people discussing the moon and the space around them.
  • Shown Their Work: Verne went to great lenghs to specify solid numbers to support the characters’ plan. There are also things that he predicted correctly, like the location the astronauts would launch from, the number of astronauts and, within a range of error, where they would land.
    • There was one inaccuracy though: Verne assumed the price of aluminium in 1865 conditions to be $9 per pound ($19.8 per kg), which would have made the projectile the most expensive part of the entire project. In practice, aluminium in 1859-1865 conditions was worth more than $40 per kg (and this was a great step forward from the 1850-1855 level of technology, which made aluminium more expensive than gold). At that particular step in time, there had been a wave of pro-aluminium enthusiasm in the French upper circles, it has been seen as the metal of the future and Emperor Napoleon III himself hoped the French Army could be equipped with lightweight armor made from it.
  • Space Is Cold
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: The only person in the entire United States of America who doesn't think it's a good idea to spend millions of dollars so they can shoot the moon is shown to have had a previous grudge against the president of the Gun Club, and is only protesting because of said grudge. And then they reconcile and he decides to go along with the plan anyway, going so far as to go to the moon with them.
    • Also, the only country that is asked to give money for this venture and doesn't is Britain, who claims it's because they believe it's not going to work, "But this was nothing more than mere English jealousy."
  • Trigger Happy: Most of the Gun Club, but J. T. Maston deserves a special mention.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Impey Barbicane.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Maston was more than willing to start a war with France because they laughed at an American and another war with Mexico only to acquire land for the launching, nevermind the fact that they already had land below the latitude required. In The Purchase of the North Pole, the Gun Club didn’t seem to mind that tilting the axis of the Earth would provoke floods in other parts of the world.
  • Write Who You Know: Michel Ardan is based on a Verne's close friend Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, a famous photographer, journalist and aeronautics enthusiast, better known as Nadar.
    • Ironically, in the sequel Ardan mentions Nadar as a model that the moonmen may have had a copy of.


Five Weeks in a BalloonFrench LiteratureGentlemen of the Night
Around the World in Eighty DaysCreator/Jules VerneIn Search of the Castaways
Frankenstein 19 th Century LiteratureGentlemen of the Night
From Reality to FictionScience Fiction LiteratureFugue for a Darkening Island

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