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Recap / Tintin: Destination Moon

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After returning to Marlinspike following a trip, Tintin and Haddock are surprised to find that Calculus had mysteriously left some time earlier. They immediately receive a telegram from the Professor explaining that he's in Syldavia and asking them to join him there. They do so and are led to a heavily guarded scientific research compound, where they are greeted by Calculus' assistant engineer Frank Wolff and the Professor himself. The latter explains that they are in Syldavia's Atomic Research Center, which recruited Calculus for their Astronautical section. Calculus is currently completing plans for a nuclear power rocket that will be able to land on the Moon...and he called Tintin and Haddock so that they will be part of the landing party. Despite both having some misgivings about the plan (especially Haddock) they accept.
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Of course, preparing for this unprecedented and utterly crazy venture is not simple or easy. To make matters worse, the preparation is plagued with incidents, ranging from the humorous (the Thompsons, who inexplicably were assigned as security engage in their traditional bungling) to significant (Calculus losing his memory, which puts the whole project in jeopardy though he ends up being cured by Haddock via ensued hilarity) to the serious (Miller, a mysterious spymaster working under an unnamed foreign power is interested in the project and almost succeeds in stealing the prototype rocket, only to be prevented by a Self-Destruct Mechanism installed at Tintin's suggestion). Despite all this, the rocket is completed and is successfully launched, with Tintin, Haddock, Calculus, Wolff and Snowy en route to the Moon... yet Miller seems to have an additional ace up his sleeve, involving Tintin's old enemy Colonel Jorgen...

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The story is continued in Explorers On The Moon.


Tropes

  • Abuse Mistake: Just as the two heroes enter the office Calculus is in, there is a man with a hammer about to crush his head, leading them to think he was in danger. But it turns out he was testing the helmet on his head.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • Judging by the backstory or lack thereof, the moon rocket project seems to involve multiple scientific jumps in one within the series' universe: aside from a non-manned rocket used as a probe, it's not only the first moon trip attempt, but also the first manned space flight, the first usage of that spaceship model in particular, and the very first mission of that particular team. In real life, as scientific common sense mandates, conquest of space was accomplished in steps, which would allow time to readjust, rethink and redesign with every discovery. No sane military agency at the time the story is set would have tried to invent space travel and land in a faraway extra-terrestrial destination all in one, even if revolutionary advances like Calculus' atomic engine could have allowed it, as it would mean such a difficult trip was being done virtually in the dark. Tellingly, this is exactly what comes back to bite them in the next chapter, Tintin: Explorers on the Moon, where many of the perils found by the team are based on the fact that they are the only spaceship in the world in its first travel and, were the ship or their mostly theoretical calculations fail them, they would be utterly doomed.
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    • In relation to the previous point, no test flight was performed before the moon trip, even though the costs of a nuclear-powered single-stage-to-orbit rocket taking off and landing would be relatively low. This means Tintin and company take off without having proved the rocket really has the capabilities to take off smoothly (as in not blowing up, not deviating and crashing, not failing at reaching orbit, not depressurizing, or not losing functionality in space conditions, for instance).
    • The Syldavian government allows two civilians with no formal training in space flight and a dog to be "invited" to take part in the biggest and riskiest attempt at manned space flight ever devised. This wouldn't have been out of place had the story been set in Victorian times a la From the Earth to the Moon, when the ideal of the Gentleman Adventurer meant many expeditions were privately organized by bored rich men with connections. By the time this story is set in, however, this mentality had been completely phased out and replaced by a more professional approach similar to our modern NASA. Admittedly, Tintin and Haddock aren't that unqualified despite being civilians, as both have previous experience being part of a successful scientific expedition, and the book makes it quite clear they weren't so much invited as much as they were recommended by Calculus for being competent and brave, but they are still people who have zero experience with engineering, piloting or using the technology involved in the travel.
    • For that matter, Professor Calculus, a not-very-physically-fit older man with hearing problems, realistically would never be given the nod to actually go up to the moon, hearing aid or no hearing aid. Besides, if an accident did happen and they all died, all the knowledge and brainpower that made the mission possible would be lost as well.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Haddock dresses up as one in order to scare Calculus out of his amnesia. He carries some chains to complete the routine. It's not very successful, until he mentions "acting the goat."
  • Behind the Black: The scene described on the book cover happens a bit differently in the comic: the pictures are only focused on the jeep, carefully excluding the Moon rocket from the frame until the jeep stops at its foot (and at the bottom of a page), with Tintin and Haddock looking up in surprise, leaving the reveal of the rocket in its full glory for the heroes and the readers for the next page. In short, it seems as if Calculus drove all the way to the Moon rocket without either Tintin or Haddock apparently noticing it before they are parked almost below it.
  • Berserk Button: Don’t tell Professor Calculus he’s acting the goat.
  • Beware The Nice Ones: Calculus is generally very pleasant and friendly. But when Haddock insults his work, he goes berserk. Providing some of the most memorable moments of the issue.
  • Cassandra Truth: It's easy to miss, but the Thom(p)sons display an unusual bout of competence in this story by successfully capturing the Mole, who had managed to get the drop on Haddock. Of course, everybody, including them, thinks it's another of their stupid mistakes when they realise the person they captured is Calculus' assistant. Also counts as a Rewatch Bonus because one realises this only after reading the sequel (where nobody comments on this).
  • Continuity Nod: The Thom(p)sons are still suffering from eating Formula Fourteen pills in Land of Black Gold, meaning they burp coloured bubbles at one point.
  • Dem Bones: The Thom(p)sons actually think that a real animated skeleton is around (which was really their X-rays), and put the cuffs on a normal, non-animated one who is hanging at a physician's office.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Calculus hijacks a military vehicle to go demonstrate the results of his labor to Haddock. His driving skills fit the trope. Though he was enraged with Haddock at this point and not in his right state of mind. He even mentions that he doesn't have a driving license.
  • Easy Amnesia: Happens to Calculus at one point, and almost scuppers the project, until Haddock accidentally triggers his memory by pushing his Berserk Button.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Thomson and Thompson are startled by lab mice.
  • Expo Speak: The "acting the goat" scene is actually an Info Dump that explains the features of the moon rocket, but Calculus' rage makes it entertaining.
  • Fishbowl Helmet: A major part of the space suit design, and one of the concessions Hergé made to art over accuracy. He wanted to make sure the reader could tell who was who in each panel, hence the "fishbowl" look.
  • Hazmat Suit: Tintin, Captain Haddock and Wolff put on protective suits so they can view the atomic pile. Professor Calculus also ordered a dog-sized suit made for Snowy to wear so he can go with them, but Snowy keeps tripping on the sleeves because the suit is too big for him. They also forget to take the suit off Snowy afterwards.
  • Inertial Dampening: Averted. The crew of the Moon-Rocket faints from the pressures caused by take-off and landing.
  • Insulted Awake: Captain Haddock cures Professor Calculus' accidental amnesia by complaining about "acting the goat", a remark that had earlier served as a Berserk Button for Calculus. This is completely by accident because this time Haddock is not even calling Calculus a goat, but himself for dressing as a ghost.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: Toyed with. Tintin and Haddock are following an invitation that ends with them ending up in an armored car, getting taken through checkpoints to what looks like a military base in what they expect is a sinister kidnapping. Actually, Professor Calculus just wants them to join him working on the moon project. Calculus is their friend, but the supervisors who send the invitation aren't, so it might not count.
  • Minion Maracas: An enraged Professor Calculus lifts a security guard easily twice his size and suspends him off a coat rack.
  • Mundane Dogmatic: Hergé attempted to ensure that the two space-travel books were scientifically accurate. They reflect space flight ideas and scientific theories of The '50s. But the rocket engine designed by Calculus works like a slowly exploding nuclear fission bomb. The engine is able to withstand the extreme heat and radiation, since it is made of "calculon", a silicon-based, extremely heat-resistant material also invented by the professor.
  • My God, You Are Serious!: When Calculus says he is finishing plans for a rocket that will land on the moon, Captain Haddock has a big hearty laugh about it, and facetiously suggests, "You are taking passengers, I hope?" Calculus replies, "Why else do you think I asked you to join me?", utterly stunning Tintin and the Captain.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: This turns out to be the case for the moon rocket and the entire Sylvadian moon landing mission. Which is why when Professor Calculus got amnesia, the entire project was put into jeopardy. He was the only one with memory of the designs.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: This is the first time we see Calculus getting angry and it ain't pretty.
  • Retro Rocket: The Moon-rocket, as seen here. This is an interesting case as it's combined with a frighteningly prescient depiction of the Cold War space program. Blueprints and launchpad shown here. The rocket's external appearance is based on the German V2.
  • Ruritania: Syldavia. Previously featured in King Ottokar's Sceptre (1939), Syldavia is an atypically detailed version of this trope. It has its own flag, royal dynasty, historical events and even a language created by Hergé. The made-up language, despite being written in Cyrillic script, is remarkably not Slavic but a dialect of Flemish/Dutch with some curious phonetics. In this issue, Syldavia becomes the setting for a fictionalized space program.
  • Schematized Prop: The album uses a full page to show the blueprint for the Moon-Rocket.
  • Spoiler Title: The issue ends on a Cliffhanger as the astronauts have passed out and Earth has lost communication with them. As mission control gets increasingly nervous, the Narrator asks the reader rhetorically (paraphrased): "Will Tintin and his friends survive this dangerous mission to make it to the moon? Find out in Explorers On The Moon!" The title of the next album points out that they do make it to the Moon.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Averted; Tintin and Haddock have to go through countless security checkpoints to get to the compound, which is even guarded by anti-aircraft guns. Nevertheless the project has somehow been infiltrated...
  • Unobtainium: Professor Calculus has invented a new substance - calculon - which can "resist even the highest temperatures", with which to make the nuclear fission motor for the rocket.
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