Part 4 out of 7
Barbicane and his two companions immediately rushed to the
uncovered window. But it was lit by no ray of light.
Profound darkness surrounded them, which, however, did not
prevent the president from exclaiming:
"No, my friends, we have not fallen back upon the earth; no, nor
are we submerged in the Gulf of Mexico. Yes! we are mounting
into space. See those stars shining in the night, and that
impenetrable darkness heaped up between the earth and us!"
"Hurrah! hurrah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan and Nicholl in one voice.
Indeed, this thick darkness proved that the projectile had left
the earth, for the soil, brilliantly lit by the moon-beams would
have been visible to the travelers, if they had been lying on
its surface. This darkness also showed that the projectile had
passed the atmospheric strata, for the diffused light spread in
the air would have been reflected on the metal walls, which
reflection was wanting. This light would have lit the window,
and the window was dark. Doubt was no longer possible; the
travelers had left the earth.
"I have lost," said Nicholl.
"I congratulate you," replied Ardan.
"Here are the nine thousand dollars," said the captain, drawing
a roll of paper dollars from his pocket.
"Will you have a receipt for it?" asked Barbicane, taking the sum.
"If you do not mind," answered Nicholl; "it is more business-like."
And coolly and seriously, as if he had been at his strong-box,
the president drew forth his notebook, tore out a blank leaf,
wrote a proper receipt in pencil, dated and signed it with the
usual flourish,  and gave it to the captain, who carefully placed
it in his pocketbook. Michel Ardan, taking off his hat, bowed to
his two companions without speaking. So much formality under such
circumstances left him speechless. He had never before seen
anything so "American."
 This is a purely French habit.
This affair settled, Barbicane and Nicholl had returned to the
window, and were watching the constellations. The stars looked
like bright points on the black sky. But from that side they
could not see the orb of night, which, traveling from east to
west, would rise by degrees toward the zenith. Its absence drew
the following remark from Ardan:
"And the moon; will she perchance fail at our rendezvous?"
"Do not alarm yourself," said Barbicane; "our future globe is at
its post, but we cannot see her from this side; let us open the other."
"As Barbicane was about leaving the window to open the opposite
scuttle, his attention was attracted by the approach of a
brilliant object. It was an enormous disc, whose colossal
dimension could not be estimated. Its face, which was turned to
the earth, was very bright. One might have thought it a small
moon reflecting the light of the large one. She advanced with
great speed, and seemed to describe an orbit round the earth,
which would intersect the passage of the projectile. This body
revolved upon its axis, and exhibited the phenomena of all
celestial bodies abandoned in space.
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "What is that? another projectile?"
Barbicane did not answer. The appearance of this enormous body
surprised and troubled him. A collision was possible, and might
be attended with deplorable results; either the projectile would
deviate from its path, or a shock, breaking its impetus, might
precipitate it to earth; or, lastly, it might be irresistibly
drawn away by the powerful asteroid. The president caught at a
glance the consequences of these three hypotheses, either of
which would, one way or the other, bring their experiment to an
unsuccessful and fatal termination. His companions stood
silently looking into space. The object grew rapidly as it
approached them, and by an optical illusion the projectile
seemed to be throwing itself before it.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "we shall run into one another!"
Instinctively the travelers drew back. Their dread was great,
but it did not last many seconds. The asteroid passed several
hundred yards from the projectile and disappeared, not so much
from the rapidity of its course, as that its face being opposite
the moon, it was suddenly merged into the perfect darkness of space.
"A happy journey to you," exclaimed Michel Ardan, with a sigh
of relief. "Surely infinity of space is large enough for a poor
little projectile to walk through without fear. Now, what is
this portentous globe which nearly struck us?"
"I know," replied Barbicane.
"Oh, indeed! you know everything."
"It is," said Barbicane, "a simple meteorite, but an enormous one,
which the attraction of the earth has retained as a satellite."
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "the earth then has
two moons like Neptune?"
"Yes, my friends, two moons, though it passes generally for
having only one; but this second moon is so small, and its
speed so great, that the inhabitants of the earth cannot see it.
It was by noticing disturbances that a French astronomer, M. Petit,
was able to determine the existence of this second satellite and
calculate its elements. According to his observations, this
meteorite will accomplish its revolution around the earth in
three hours and twenty minutes, which implies a wonderful rate
"Do all astronomers admit the existence of this satellite?"
"No," replied Barbicane; "but if, like us, they had met it, they
could no longer doubt it. Indeed, I think that this meteorite,
which, had it struck the projectile, would have much embarrassed
us, will give us the means of deciding what our position in
"How?" said Ardan.
"Because its distance is known, and when we met it, we were
exactly four thousand six hundred and fifty miles from the
surface of the terrestrial globe."
"More than two thousand French leagues," exclaimed Michel Ardan.
"That beats the express trains of the pitiful globe called the earth."
"I should think so," replied Nicholl, consulting his
chronometer; "it is eleven o'clock, and it is only thirteen
minutes since we left the American continent."
"Only thirteen minutes?" said Barbicane.
"Yes," said Nicholl; "and if our initiatory speed of twelve
thousand yards has been kept up, we shall have made about twenty
thousand miles in the hour."
"That is all very well, my friends," said the president, "but
the insoluble question still remains. Why did we not hear the
detonation of the Columbiad?"
For want of an answer the conversation dropped, and Barbicane
began thoughtfully to let down the shutter of the second side.
He succeeded; and through the uncovered glass the moon filled
the projectile with a brilliant light. Nicholl, as an
economical man, put out the gas, now useless, and whose
brilliancy prevented any observation of the inter-planetary space.
The lunar disc shone with wonderful purity. Her rays, no longer
filtered through the vapory atmosphere of the terrestrial globe,
shone through the glass, filling the air in the interior of the
projectile with silvery reflections. The black curtain of the
firmament in reality heightened the moon's brilliancy, which in
this void of ether unfavorable to diffusion did not eclipse the
neighboring stars. The heavens, thus seen, presented quite a
new aspect, and one which the human eye could never dream of.
One may conceive the interest with which these bold men watched
the orb of night, the great aim of their journey.
In its motion the earth's satellite was insensibly nearing the
zenith, the mathematical point which it ought to attain
ninety-six hours later. Her mountains, her plains, every
projection was as clearly discernible to their eyes as if they
were observing it from some spot upon the earth; but its light
was developed through space with wonderful intensity. The disc
shone like a platinum mirror. Of the earth flying from under
their feet, the travelers had lost all recollection.
It was captain Nicholl who first recalled their attention to the
"Yes," said Michel Ardan, "do not let us be ungrateful to it.
Since we are leaving our country, let our last looks be directed
to it. I wish to see the earth once more before it is quite
hidden from my eyes."
To satisfy his companions, Barbicane began to uncover the window
at the bottom of the projectile, which would allow them to
observe the earth direct. The disc, which the force of the
projection had beaten down to the base, was removed, not
without difficulty. Its fragments, placed carefully against a wall,
might serve again upon occasion. Then a circular gap appeared,
nineteen inches in diameter, hollowed out of the lower part of
the projectile. A glass cover, six inches thick and strengthened
with upper fastenings, closed it tightly. Beneath was fixed an
aluminum plate, held in place by bolts. The screws being undone,
and the bolts let go, the plate fell down, and visible
communication was established between the interior and the exterior.
Michel Ardan knelt by the glass. It was cloudy, seemingly opaque.
"Well!" he exclaimed, "and the earth?"
"The earth?" said Barbicane. "There it is."
"What! that little thread; that silver crescent?"
"Doubtless, Michel. In four days, when the moon will be full,
at the very time we shall reach it, the earth will be new, and
will only appear to us as a slender crescent which will soon
disappear, and for some days will be enveloped in utter darkness."
"That the earth?" repeated Michel Ardan, looking with all his
eyes at the thin slip of his native planet.
The explanation given by President Barbicane was correct.
The earth, with respect to the projectile, was entering its
last phase. It was in its octant, and showed a crescent finely
traced on the dark background of the sky. Its light, rendered
bluish by the thick strata of the atmosphere was less intense
than that of the crescent moon, but it was of considerable
dimensions, and looked like an enormous arch stretched across
the firmament. Some parts brilliantly lighted, especially on
its concave part, showed the presence of high mountains, often
disappearing behind thick spots, which are never seen on the
lunar disc. They were rings of clouds placed concentrically
round the terrestrial globe.
While the travelers were trying to pierce the profound darkness,
a brilliant cluster of shooting stars burst upon their eyes.
Hundreds of meteorites, ignited by the friction of the
atmosphere, irradiated the shadow of the luminous train, and
lined the cloudy parts of the disc with their fire. At this
period the earth was in its perihelion, and the month of
December is so propitious to these shooting stars, that
astronomers have counted as many as twenty-four thousand in
an hour. But Michel Ardan, disdaining scientific reasonings,
preferred thinking that the earth was thus saluting the
departure of her three children with her most brilliant fireworks.
Indeed this was all they saw of the globe lost in the solar
world, rising and setting to the great planets like a simple
morning or evening star! This globe, where they had left all
their affections, was nothing more than a fugitive crescent!
Long did the three friends look without speaking, though united
in heart, while the projectile sped onward with an
ever-decreasing speed. Then an irresistible drowsiness crept
over their brain. Was it weariness of body and mind? No doubt;
for after the over-excitement of those last hours passed upon
earth, reaction was inevitable.
"Well," said Nicholl, "since we must sleep, let us sleep."
And stretching themselves on their couches, they were all three
soon in a profound slumber.
But they had not forgotten themselves more than a quarter of an
hour, when Barbicane sat up suddenly, and rousing his companions
with a loud voice, exclaimed----
"I have found it!"
"What have you found?" asked Michel Ardan, jumping from his bed.
"The reason why we did not hear the detonation of the Columbiad."
"And it is----?" said Nicholl.
"Because our projectile traveled faster than the sound!"
THEIR PLACE OF SHELTER
This curious but certainly correct explanation once given, the
three friends returned to their slumbers. Could they have found
a calmer or more peaceful spot to sleep in? On the earth,
houses, towns, cottages, and country feel every shock given to
the exterior of the globe. On sea, the vessels rocked by the
waves are still in motion; in the air, the balloon oscillates
incessantly on the fluid strata of divers densities.
This projectile alone, floating in perfect space, in the midst
of perfect silence, offered perfect repose.
Thus the sleep of our adventurous travelers might have been
indefinitely prolonged, if an unexpected noise had not awakened
them at about seven o'clock in the morning of the 2nd of
December, eight hours after their departure.
This noise was a very natural barking.
"The dogs! it is the dogs!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, rising at once.
"They are hungry," said Nicholl.
"By Jove!" replied Michel, "we have forgotten them."
"Where are they?" asked Barbicane.
They looked and found one of the animals crouched under the divan.
Terrified and shaken by the initiatory shock, it had remained
in the corner till its voice returned with the pangs of hunger.
It was the amiable Diana, still very confused, who crept out of
her retreat, though not without much persuasion, Michel Ardan
encouraging her with most gracious words.
"Come, Diana," said he: "come, my girl! thou whose destiny will
be marked in the cynegetic annals; thou whom the pagans would
have given as companion to the god Anubis, and Christians as
friend to St. Roch; thou who art rushing into interplanetary
space, and wilt perhaps be the Eve of all Selenite dogs! come,
Diana, come here."
Diana, flattered or not, advanced by degrees, uttering
"Good," said Barbicane: "I see Eve, but where is Adam?"
"Adam?" replied Michel; "Adam cannot be far off; he is there
somewhere; we must call him. Satellite! here, Satellite!"
But Satellite did not appear. Diana would not leave off howling.
They found, however, that she was not bruised, and they gave her
a pie, which silenced her complaints. As to Satellite, he seemed
quite lost. They had to hunt a long time before finding him in
one of the upper compartments of the projectile, whither some
unaccountable shock must have violently hurled him. The poor
beast, much hurt, was in a piteous state.
"The devil!" said Michel.
They brought the unfortunate dog down with great care. Its skull
had been broken against the roof, and it seemed unlikely that he
could recover from such a shock. Meanwhile, he was stretched
comfortably on a cushion. Once there, he heaved a sigh.
"We will take care of you," said Michel; "we are responsible for
your existence. I would rather lose an arm than a paw of my
Saying which, he offered some water to the wounded dog, who
swallowed it with avidity.
This attention paid, the travelers watched the earth and the
moon attentively. The earth was now only discernible by a
cloudy disc ending in a crescent, rather more contracted than
that of the previous evening; but its expanse was still
enormous, compared with that of the moon, which was approaching
nearer and nearer to a perfect circle.
"By Jove!" said Michel Ardan, "I am really sorry that we did not
start when the earth was full, that is to say, when our globe
was in opposition to the sun."
"Why?" said Nicholl.
"Because we should have seen our continents and seas in a new
light-- the first resplendent under the solar rays, the latter
cloudy as represented on some maps of the world. I should like
to have seen those poles of the earth on which the eye of man
has never yet rested.
"I dare say," replied Barbicane; "but if the earth had been
full, the moon would have been new; that is to say,
invisible, because of the rays of the sun. It is better
for us to see the destination we wish to reach, than the point
"You are right, Barbicane," replied Captain Nicholl; "and,
besides, when we have reached the moon, we shall have time
during the long lunar nights to consider at our leisure the
globe on which our likenesses swarm."
"Our likenesses!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "They are no more our
likenesses than the Selenites are! We inhabit a new world,
peopled by ourselves-- the projectile! I am Barbicane's
likeness, and Barbicane is Nicholl's. Beyond us, around us,
human nature is at an end, and we are the only population of
this microcosm until we become pure Selenites."
"In about eighty-eight hours," replied the captain.
"Which means to say?" asked Michel Ardan.
"That it is half-past eight," replied Nicholl.
"Very well," retorted Michel; "then it is impossible for me to
find even the shadow of a reason why we should not go to breakfast."
Indeed the inhabitants of the new star could not live without
eating, and their stomachs were suffering from the imperious
laws of hunger. Michel Ardan, as a Frenchman, was declared
chief cook, an important function, which raised no rival.
The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus, and
the provision box furnished the elements of this first feast.
The breakfast began with three bowls of excellent soup, thanks to
the liquefaction in hot water of those precious cakes of Liebig,
prepared from the best parts of the ruminants of the Pampas.
To the soup succeeded some beefsteaks, compressed by an hydraulic
press, as tender and succulent as if brought straight from the
kitchen of an English eating-house. Michel, who was imaginative,
maintained that they were even "red."
Preserved vegetables ("fresher than nature," said the amiable
Michel) succeeded the dish of meat; and was followed by some
cups of tea with bread and butter, after the American fashion.
The beverage was declared exquisite, and was due to the
infusion of the choicest leaves, of which the emperor of Russia
had given some chests for the benefit of the travelers.
And lastly, to crown the repast, Ardan had brought out a fine
bottle of Nuits, which was found "by chance" in the
provision-box. The three friends drank to the union of the
earth and her satellite.
And, as if he had not already done enough for the generous wine
which he had distilled on the slopes of Burgundy, the sun chose
to be part of the party. At this moment the projectile emerged
from the conical shadow cast by the terrestrial globe, and the
rays of the radiant orb struck the lower disc of the projectile
direct occasioned by the angle which the moon's orbit makes with
that of the earth.
"The sun!" exclaimed Michel Ardan.
"No doubt," replied Barbicane; "I expected it."
"But," said Michel, "the conical shadow which the earth leaves
in space extends beyond the moon?"
"Far beyond it, if the atmospheric refraction is not taken into
consideration," said Barbicane. "But when the moon is enveloped
in this shadow, it is because the centers of the three stars,
the sun, the earth, and the moon, are all in one and the same
straight line. Then the nodes coincide with the phases of
the moon, and there is an eclipse. If we had started when there
was an eclipse of the moon, all our passage would have been in
the shadow, which would have been a pity."
"Because, though we are floating in space, our projectile,
bathed in the solar rays, will receive light and heat.
It economizes the gas, which is in every respect a good economy."
Indeed, under these rays which no atmosphere can temper, either
in temperature or brilliancy, the projectile grew warm and
bright, as if it had passed suddenly from winter to summer.
The moon above, the sun beneath, were inundating it with their fire.
"It is pleasant here," said Nicholl.
"I should think so," said Michel Ardan. "With a little earth
spread on our aluminum planet we should have green peas in
twenty-four hours. I have but one fear, which is that the
walls of the projectile might melt."
"Calm yourself, my worthy friend," replied Barbicane; "the
projectile withstood a very much higher temperature than this as
it slid through the strata of the atmosphere. I should not be
surprised if it did not look like a meteor on fire to the eyes
of the spectators in Florida."
"But then J. T. Maston will think we are roasted!"
"What astonishes me," said Barbicane, "is that we have not been.
That was a danger we had not provided for."
"I feared it," said Nicholl simply.
"And you never mentioned it, my sublime captain," exclaimed
Michel Ardan, clasping his friend's hand.
Barbicane now began to settle himself in the projectile as if he
was never to leave it. One must remember that this aerial car
had a base with a superficies of fifty-four square feet.
Its height to the roof was twelve feet. Carefully laid out in
the inside, and little encumbered by instruments and traveling
utensils, which each had their particular place, it left the
three travelers a certain freedom of movement. The thick window
inserted in the bottom could bear any amount of weight, and
Barbicane and his companions walked upon it as if it were solid
plank; but the sun striking it directly with its rays lit the
interior of the projectile from beneath, thus producing singular
effects of light.
They began by investigating the state of their store of water
and provisions, neither of which had suffered, thanks to the
care taken to deaden the shock. Their provisions were abundant,
and plentiful enough to last the three travelers for more than
a year. Barbicane wished to be cautious, in case the projectile
should land on a part of the moon which was utterly barren.
As to water and the reserve of brandy, which consisted of fifty
gallons, there was only enough for two months; but according to
the last observations of astronomers, the moon had a low, dense,
and thick atmosphere, at least in the deep valleys, and there
springs and streams could not fail. Thus, during their passage,
and for the first year of their settlement on the lunar
continent, these adventurous explorers would suffer neither
hunger nor thirst.
Now about the air in the projectile. There, too, they were secure.
Reiset and Regnaut's apparatus, intended for the production of
oxygen, was supplied with chlorate of potassium for two months.
They necessarily consumed a certain quantity of gas, for they
were obliged to keep the producing substance at a temperature
of above 400@. But there again they were all safe. The apparatus
only wanted a little care. But it was not enough to renew the
oxygen; they must absorb the carbonic acid produced by expiration.
During the last twelve hours the atmosphere of the projectile had
become charged with this deleterious gas. Nicholl discovered
the state of the air by observing Diana panting painfully.
The carbonic acid, by a phenomenon similar to that produced in
the famous Grotto del Cane, had collected at the bottom of the
projectile owing to its weight. Poor Diana, with her head low,
would suffer before her masters from the presence of this gas.
But Captain Nicholl hastened to remedy this state of things,
by placing on the floor several receivers containing caustic
potash, which he shook about for a time, and this substance,
greedy of carbonic acid, soon completely absorbed it, thus
purifying the air.
An inventory of instruments was then begun. The thermometers
and barometers had resisted, all but one minimum thermometer,
the glass of which was broken. An excellent aneroid was drawn
from the wadded box which contained it and hung on the wall.
Of course it was only affected by and marked the pressure of the
air inside the projectile, but it also showed the quantity of
moisture which it contained. At that moment its needle
oscillated between 25.24 and 25.08.
It was fine weather.
Barbicane had also brought several compasses, which he found intact.
One must understand that under present conditions their needles
were acting wildly, that is without any constant direction.
Indeed, at the distance they were from the earth, the magnetic
pole could have no perceptible action upon the apparatus; but
the box placed on the lunar disc might perhaps exhibit some
strange phenomena. In any case it would be interesting to see
whether the earth's satellite submitted like herself to its
A hypsometer to measure the height of the lunar mountains, a
sextant to take the height of the sun, glasses which would be
useful as they neared the moon, all these instruments were
carefully looked over, and pronounced good in spite of the
As to the pickaxes and different tools which were Nicholl's
especial choice; as to the sacks of different kinds of grain and
shrubs which Michel Ardan hoped to transplant into Selenite
ground, they were stowed away in the upper part of the projectile.
There was a sort of granary there, loaded with things which the
extravagant Frenchman had heaped up. What they were no one knew,
and the good-tempered fellow did not explain. Now and then he
climbed up by cramp-irons riveted to the walls, but kept the
inspection to himself. He arranged and rearranged, he plunged
his hand rapidly into certain mysterious boxes, singing in one
of the falsest of voices an old French refrain to enliven
Barbicane observed with some interest that his guns and other
arms had not been damaged. These were important, because,
heavily loaded, they were to help lessen the fall of the
projectile, when drawn by the lunar attraction (after having
passed the point of neutral attraction) on to the moon's
surface; a fall which ought to be six times less rapid than it
would have been on the earth's surface, thanks to the difference
of bulk. The inspection ended with general satisfaction, when
each returned to watch space through the side windows and the
lower glass coverlid.
There was the same view. The whole extent of the celestial
sphere swarmed with stars and constellations of wonderful
purity, enough to drive an astronomer out of his mind! On one
side the sun, like the mouth of a lighted oven, a dazzling disc
without a halo, standing out on the dark background of the sky!
On the other, the moon returning its fire by reflection, and
apparently motionless in the midst of the starry world. Then, a
large spot seemingly nailed to the firmament, bordered by a
silvery cord; it was the earth! Here and there nebulous masses
like large flakes of starry snow; and from the zenith to the nadir,
an immense ring formed by an impalpable dust of stars, the "Milky
Way," in the midst of which the sun ranks only as a star of the
fourth magnitude. The observers could not take their eyes from
this novel spectacle, of which no description could give an
adequate idea. What reflections it suggested! What emotions
hitherto unknown awoke in their souls! Barbicane wished to begin
the relation of his journey while under its first impressions,
and hour after hour took notes of all facts happening in the
beginning of the enterprise. He wrote quietly, with his large
square writing, in a business-like style.
During this time Nicholl, the calculator, looked over the
minutes of their passage, and worked out figures with
unparalleled dexterity. Michel Ardan chatted first with
Barbicane, who did not answer him, and then with Nicholl, who
did not hear him, with Diana, who understood none of his
theories, and lastly with himself, questioning and answering,
going and coming, busy with a thousand details; at one time bent
over the lower glass, at another roosting in the heights of the
projectile, and always singing. In this microcosm he
represented French loquacity and excitability, and we beg you to
believe that they were well represented. The day, or rather
(for the expression is not correct) the lapse of twelve hours,
which forms a day upon the earth, closed with a plentiful supper
carefully prepared. No accident of any nature had yet happened
to shake the travelers' confidence; so, full of hope, already
sure of success, they slept peacefully, while the projectile
under an uniformly decreasing speed was crossing the sky.
A LITTLE ALGEBRA
The night passed without incident. The word "night," however,
is scarcely applicable.
The position of the projectile with regard to the sun did
not change. Astronomically, it was daylight on the lower part,
and night on the upper; so when during this narrative these
words are used, they represent the lapse of time between rising
and setting of the sun upon the earth.
The travelers' sleep was rendered more peaceful by the
projectile's excessive speed, for it seemed absolutely motionless.
Not a motion betrayed its onward course through space. The rate
of progress, however rapid it might be, cannot produce any
sensible effect on the human frame when it takes place in a
vacuum, or when the mass of air circulates with the body which
is carried with it. What inhabitant of the earth perceives its
speed, which, however, is at the rate of 68,000 miles per hour?
Motion under such conditions is "felt" no more than repose; and
when a body is in repose it will remain so as long as no strange
force displaces it; if moving, it will not stop unless an
obstacle comes in its way. This indifference to motion or
repose is called inertia.
Barbicane and his companions might have believed themselves
perfectly stationary, being shut up in the projectile; indeed,
the effect would have been the same if they had been on the
outside of it. Had it not been for the moon, which was
increasing above them, they might have sworn that they were
floating in complete stagnation.
That morning, the 3rd of December, the travelers were awakened by
a joyous but unexpected noise; it was the crowing of a cock
which sounded through the car. Michel Ardan, who was the first
on his feet, climbed to the top of the projectile, and shutting
a box, the lid of which was partly open, said in a low voice,
"Will you hold your tongue? That creature will spoil my design!"
But Nicholl and Barbicane were awake.
"A cock!" said Nicholl.
"Why no, my friends," Michel answered quickly; "it was I who
wished to awake you by this rural sound." So saying, he gave
vent to a splendid cock-a-doodledoo, which would have done honor
to the proudest of poultry-yards.
The two Americans could not help laughing.
"Fine talent that," said Nicholl, looking suspiciously at his companion.
"Yes," said Michel; "a joke in my country. It is very Gallic;
they play the cock so in the best society."
Then turning the conversation:
"Barbicane, do you know what I have been thinking of all night?"
"No," answered the president.
"Of our Cambridge friends. You have already remarked that I am
an ignoramus in mathematical subjects; and it is impossible for
me to find out how the savants of the observatory were able to
calculate what initiatory speed the projectile ought to have on
leaving the Columbiad in order to attain the moon."
"You mean to say," replied Barbicane, "to attain that neutral
point where the terrestrial and lunar attractions are equal;
for, starting from that point, situated about nine-tenths of the
distance traveled over, the projectile would simply fall upon
the moon, on account of its weight."
"So be it," said Michel; "but, once more; how could they
calculate the initiatory speed?"
"Nothing can be easier," replied Barbicane.
"And you knew how to make that calculation?" asked Michel Ardan.
"Perfectly. Nicholl and I would have made it, if the
observatory had not saved us the trouble."
"Very well, old Barbicane," replied Michel; "they might have cut
off my head, beginning at my feet, before they could have made
me solve that problem."
"Because you do not know algebra," answered Barbicane quietly.
"Ah, there you are, you eaters of x^1; you think you have said
all when you have said `Algebra.'"
"Michel," said Barbicane, "can you use a forge without a hammer,
or a plow without a plowshare?"
"Well, algebra is a tool, like the plow or the hammer, and a
good tool to those who know how to use it."
"And can you use that tool in my presence?"
"If it will interest you."
"And show me how they calculated the initiatory speed of our car?"
"Yes, my worthy friend; taking into consideration all the
elements of the problem, the distance from the center of the
earth to the center of the moon, of the radius of the earth, of
its bulk, and of the bulk of the moon, I can tell exactly what
ought to be the initiatory speed of the projectile, and that by
a simple formula."
"Let us see."
"You shall see it; only I shall not give you the real course
drawn by the projectile between the moon and the earth in
considering their motion round the sun. No, I shall consider
these two orbs as perfectly motionless, which will answer all
"Because it will be trying to solve the problem called `the
problem of the three bodies,' for which the integral calculus is
not yet far enough advanced."
"Then," said Michel Ardan, in his sly tone, "mathematics have
not said their last word?"
"Certainly not," replied Barbicane.
"Well, perhaps the Selenites have carried the integral calculus
farther than you have; and, by the bye, what is this
"It is a calculation the converse of the differential," replied
"Much obliged; it is all very clear, no doubt."
"And now," continued Barbicane, "a slip of paper and a bit of
pencil, and before a half-hour is over I will have found the
Half an hour had not elapsed before Barbicane, raising his head,
showed Michel Ardan a page covered with algebraical signs, in
which the general formula for the solution was contained.
"Well, and does Nicholl understand what that means?"
"Of course, Michel," replied the captain. "All these signs,
which seem cabalistic to you, form the plainest, the clearest,
and the most logical language to those who know how to read it."
"And you pretend, Nicholl," asked Michel, "that by means of
these hieroglyphics, more incomprehensible than the Egyptian
Ibis, you can find what initiatory speed it was necessary to
give the projectile?"
"Incontestably," replied Nicholl; "and even by this same formula
I can always tell you its speed at any point of its transit."
"On your word?"
"On my word."
"Then you are as cunning as our president."
"No, Michel; the difficult part is what Barbicane has done; that
is, to get an equation which shall satisfy all the conditions of
the problem. The remainder is only a question of arithmetic,
requiring merely the knowledge of the four rules."
"That is something!" replied Michel Ardan, who for his life
could not do addition right, and who defined the rule as a
Chinese puzzle, which allowed one to obtain all sorts of totals.
"The expression v zero, which you see in that equation, is the
speed which the projectile will have on leaving the atmosphere."
"Just so," said Nicholl; "it is from that point that we must
calculate the velocity, since we know already that the velocity
at departure was exactly one and a half times more than on
leaving the atmosphere."
"I understand no more," said Michel.
"It is a very simple calculation," said Barbicane.
"Not as simple as I am," retorted Michel.
"That means, that when our projectile reached the limits of the
terrestrial atmosphere it had already lost one-third of its
"As much as that?"
"Yes, my friend; merely by friction against the atmospheric strata.
You understand that the faster it goes the more resistance it meets
with from the air."
"That I admit," answered Michel; "and I understand it,
although your x's and zero's, and algebraic formula, are
rattling in my head like nails in a bag."
"First effects of algebra," replied Barbicane; "and now, to
finish, we are going to prove the given number of these
different expressions, that is, work out their value."
"Finish me!" replied Michel.
Barbicane took the paper, and began to make his calculations
with great rapidity. Nicholl looked over and greedily read the
work as it proceeded.
"That's it! that's it!" at last he cried.
"Is it clear?" asked Barbicane.
"It is written in letters of fire," said Nicholl.
"Wonderful fellows!" muttered Ardan.
"Do you understand it at last?" asked Barbicane.
"Do I understand it?" cried Ardan; "my head is splitting with it."
"And now," said Nicholl, "to find out the speed of the
projectile when it leaves the atmosphere, we have only to
The captain, as a practical man equal to all difficulties, began
to write with frightful rapidity. Divisions and multiplications
grew under his fingers; the figures were like hail on the white page.
Barbicane watched him, while Michel Ardan nursed a growing headache
with both hands.
"Very well?" asked Barbicane, after some minutes' silence.
"Well!" replied Nicholl; every calculation made, v zero, that
is to say, the speed necessary for the projectile on leaving the
atmosphere, to enable it to reach the equal point of attraction,
ought to be----"
"Yes?" said Barbicane.
"Twelve thousand yards."
"What!" exclaimed Barbicane, starting; "you say----"
"Twelve thousand yards."
"The devil!" cried the president, making a gesture of despair.
"What is the matter?" asked Michel Ardan, much surprised.
"What is the matter! why, if at this moment our speed had
already diminished one-third by friction, the initiatory speed
ought to have been----"
"Seventeen thousand yards."
"And the Cambridge Observatory declared that twelve thousand
yards was enough at starting; and our projectile, which only
started with that speed----"
"Well?" asked Nicholl.
"Well, it will not be enough."
"We shall not be able to reach the neutral point."
"We shall not even get halfway."
"In the name of the projectile!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, jumping
as if it was already on the point of striking the terrestrial globe.
"And we shall fall back upon the earth!"
THE COLD OF SPACE
This revelation came like a thunderbolt. Who could have
expected such an error in calculation? Barbicane would not
believe it. Nicholl revised his figures: they were exact.
As to the formula which had determined them, they could not
suspect its truth; it was evident that an initiatory velocity of
seventeen thousand yards in the first second was necessary to
enable them to reach the neutral point.
The three friends looked at each other silently. There was no
thought of breakfast. Barbicane, with clenched teeth, knitted
brows, and hands clasped convulsively, was watching through
the window. Nicholl had crossed his arms, and was examining
his calculations. Michel Ardan was muttering:
"That is just like these scientific men: they never do anything else.
I would give twenty pistoles if we could fall upon the Cambridge
Observatory and crush it, together with the whole lot of dabblers
in figures which it contains."
Suddenly a thought struck the captain, which he at once
communicated to Barbicane.
"Ah!" said he; "it is seven o'clock in the morning; we have
already been gone thirty-two hours; more than half our passage
is over, and we are not falling that I am aware of."
Barbicane did not answer, but after a rapid glance at the
captain, took a pair of compasses wherewith to measure the
angular distance of the terrestrial globe; then from the lower
window he took an exact observation, and noticed that the
projectile was apparently stationary. Then rising and wiping
his forehead, on which large drops of perspiration were
standing, he put some figures on paper. Nicholl understood that
the president was deducting from the terrestrial diameter the
projectile's distance from the earth. He watched him anxiously.
"No," exclaimed Barbicane, after some moments, "no, we are not
falling! no, we are already more than 50,000 leagues from the earth.
We have passed the point at which the projectile would have stopped
if its speed had only been 12,000 yards at starting. We are still
"That is evident," replied Nicholl; "and we must conclude that
our initial speed, under the power of the 400,000 pounds of
gun-cotton, must have exceeded the required 12,000 yards.
Now I can understand how, after thirteen minutes only, we met the
second satellite, which gravitates round the earth at more than
2,000 leagues' distance."
"And this explanation is the more probable," added Barbicane,
"Because, in throwing off the water enclosed between its
partition-breaks, the projectile found itself lightened of a
"Just so," said Nicholl.
"Ah, my brave Nicholl, we are saved!"
"Very well then," said Michel Ardan quietly; "as we are safe,
let us have breakfast."
Nicholl was not mistaken. The initial speed had been, very
fortunately, much above that estimated by the Cambridge
Observatory; but the Cambridge Observatory had nevertheless made
The travelers, recovered from this false alarm, breakfasted merrily.
If they ate a good deal, they talked more. Their confidence was
greater after than before "the incident of the algebra."
"Why should we not succeed?" said Michel Ardan; "why should we
not arrive safely? We are launched; we have no obstacle before
us, no stones in the way; the road is open, more so than that of
a ship battling with the sea; more open than that of a balloon
battling with the wind; and if a ship can reach its destination,
a balloon go where it pleases, why cannot our projectile attain
its end and aim?"
"It will attain it," said Barbicane.
"If only to do honor to the Americans," added Michel Ardan, "the
only people who could bring such an enterprise to a happy termination,
and the only one which could produce a President Barbicane. Ah, now
we are no longer uneasy, I begin to think, What will become of us?
We shall get right royally weary."
Barbicane and Nicholl made a gesture of denial.
"But I have provided for the contingency, my friends," replied
Michel; "you have only to speak, and I have chess, draughts,
cards, and dominoes at your disposal; nothing is wanting but a
"What!" exclaimed Barbicane; "you brought away such trifles?"
"Certainly," replied Michel, "and not only to distract
ourselves, but also with the laudable intention of endowing the
Selenite smoking divans with them."
"My friend," said Barbicane, "if the moon is inhabited, its
inhabitants must have appeared some thousands of years before
those of the earth, for we cannot doubt that their star is much
older than ours. If then these Selenites have existed their
hundreds of thousands of years, and if their brain is of the same
organization of the human brain, they have already invented all
that we have invented, and even what we may invent in future ages.
They have nothing to learn from us, and we have everything to
learn from them."
"What!" said Michel; "you believe that they have artists like
Phidias, Michael Angelo, or Raphael?"
"Poets like Homer, Virgil, Milton, Lamartine, and Hugo?"
"I am sure of it."
"Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant?"
"I have no doubt of it."
"Scientific men like Archimedes, Euclid, Pascal, Newton?"
"I could swear it."
"Comic writers like Arnal, and photographers like-- like Nadar?"
"Then, friend Barbicane, if they are as strong as we are, and
even stronger-- these Selenites-- why have they not tried to
communicate with the earth? why have they not launched a lunar
projectile to our terrestrial regions?"
"Who told you that they have never done so?" said Barbicane seriously.
"Indeed," added Nicholl, "it would be easier for them than for
us, for two reasons; first, because the attraction on the moon's
surface is six times less than on that of the earth, which would
allow a projectile to rise more easily; secondly, because it
would be enough to send such a projectile only at 8,000 leagues
instead of 80,000, which would require the force of projection
to be ten times less strong."
"Then," continued Michel, "I repeat it, why have they not done it?"
"And I repeat," said Barbicane; "who told you that they have not
"Thousands of years before man appeared on earth."
"And the projectile-- where is the projectile? I demand to see
"My friend," replied Barbicane, "the sea covers five-sixths of
our globe. From that we may draw five good reasons for
supposing that the lunar projectile, if ever launched, is now at
the bottom of the Atlantic or the Pacific, unless it sped into
some crevasse at that period when the crust of the earth was not
"Old Barbicane," said Michel, "you have an answer for
everything, and I bow before your wisdom. But there is one
hypothesis that would suit me better than all the others, which
is, the Selenites, being older than we, are wiser, and have not
At this moment Diana joined in the conversation by a sonorous barking.
She was asking for her breakfast.
"Ah!" said Michel Ardan, "in our discussion we have forgotten
Diana and Satellite."
Immediately a good-sized pie was given to the dog, which
devoured it hungrily.
"Do you see, Barbicane," said Michel, "we should have made a
second Noah's ark of this projectile, and borne with us to the
moon a couple of every kind of domestic animal."
"I dare say; but room would have failed us."
"Oh!" said Michel, "we might have squeezed a little."
"The fact is," replied Nicholl, "that cows, bulls, and horses,
and all ruminants, would have been very useful on the lunar
continent, but unfortunately the car could neither have been
made a stable nor a shed."
"Well, we might have at least brought a donkey, only a little
donkey; that courageous beast which old Silenus loved to mount.
I love those old donkeys; they are the least favored animals in
creation; they are not only beaten while alive, but even after
they are dead."
"How do you make that out?" asked Barbicane. "Why," said
Michel, "they make their skins into drums."
Barbicane and Nicholl could not help laughing at this ridiculous remark.
But a cry from their merry companion stopped them. The latter was
leaning over the spot where Satellite lay. He rose, saying:
"My good Satellite is no longer ill."
"Ah!" said Nicholl.
"No," answered Michel, "he is dead! There," added he, in a
piteous tone, "that is embarrassing. I much fear, my poor
Diana, that you will leave no progeny in the lunar regions!"
Indeed the unfortunate Satellite had not survived its wound.
It was quite dead. Michel Ardan looked at his friends with a
"One question presents itself," said Barbicane. "We cannot keep
the dead body of this dog with us for the next forty-eight hours."
"No! certainly not," replied Nicholl; "but our scuttles are
fixed on hinges; they can be let down. We will open one, and
throw the body out into space."
The president thought for some moments, and then said:
"Yes, we must do so, but at the same time taking very great precautions."
"Why?" asked Michel.
"For two reasons which you will understand," answered Barbicane.
"The first relates to the air shut up in the projectile, and of
which we must lose as little as possible."
"But we manufacture the air?"
"Only in part. We make only the oxygen, my worthy Michel; and
with regard to that, we must watch that the apparatus does not
furnish the oxygen in too great a quantity; for an excess would
bring us very serious physiological troubles. But if we make
the oxygen, we do not make the azote, that medium which the
lungs do not absorb, and which ought to remain intact; and that
azote will escape rapidly through the open scuttles."
"Oh! the time for throwing out poor Satellite?" said Michel.
"Agreed; but we must act quickly."
"And the second reason?" asked Michel.
"The second reason is that we must not let the outer cold, which
is excessive, penetrate the projectile or we shall be frozen to death."
"But the sun?"
"The sun warms our projectile, which absorbs its rays; but it
does not warm the vacuum in which we are floating at this moment.
Where there is no air, there is no more heat than diffused light;
and the same with darkness; it is cold where the sun's rays do not
strike direct. This temperature is only the temperature produced
by the radiation of the stars; that is to say, what the
terrestrial globe would undergo if the sun disappeared one day."
"Which is not to be feared," replied Nicholl.
"Who knows?" said Michel Ardan. "But, in admitting that the sun
does not go out, might it not happen that the earth might move
away from it?"
"There!" said Barbicane, "there is Michel with his ideas."
"And," continued Michel, "do we not know that in 1861 the earth
passed through the tail of a comet? Or let us suppose a comet
whose power of attraction is greater than that of the sun.
The terrestrial orbit will bend toward the wandering star, and
the earth, becoming its satellite, will be drawn such a distance
that the rays of the sun will have no action on its surface."
"That might happen, indeed," replied Barbicane, "but the
consequences of such a displacement need not be so formidable as
"And why not?"
"Because the heat and cold would be equalized on our globe.
It has been calculated that, had our earth been carried along in
its course by the comet of 1861, at its perihelion, that is, its
nearest approach to the sun, it would have undergone a heat
28,000 times greater than that of summer. But this heat, which
is sufficient to evaporate the waters, would have formed a thick
ring of cloud, which would have modified that excessive
temperature; hence the compensation between the cold of the
aphelion and the heat of the perihelion."
"At how many degrees," asked Nicholl, "is the temperature of the
planetary spaces estimated?"
"Formerly," replied Barbicane, "it was greatly exagerated; but
now, after the calculations of Fourier, of the French Academy of
Science, it is not supposed to exceed 60@ Centigrade below zero."
"Pooh!" said Michel, "that's nothing!"
"It is very much," replied Barbicane; "the temperature which was
observed in the polar regions, at Melville Island and Fort
Reliance, that is 76@ Fahrenheit below zero."
"If I mistake not," said Nicholl, "M. Pouillet, another savant,
estimates the temperature of space at 250@ Fahrenheit below zero.
We shall, however, be able to verify these calculations for ourselves."
"Not at present; because the solar rays, beating directly
upon our thermometer, would give, on the contrary, a very high
temperature. But, when we arrive in the moon, during its
fifteen days of night at either face, we shall have leisure to
make the experiment, for our satellite lies in a vacuum."
"What do you mean by a vacuum?" asked Michel. "Is it perfectly such?"
"It is absolutely void of air."
"And is the air replaced by nothing whatever?"
"By the ether only," replied Barbicane.
"And pray what is the ether?"
"The ether, my friend, is an agglomeration of imponderable
atoms, which, relatively to their dimensions, are as far removed
from each other as the celestial bodies are in space. It is
these atoms which, by their vibratory motion, produce both light
and heat in the universe."
They now proceeded to the burial of Satellite. They had merely
to drop him into space, in the same way that sailors drop a body
into the sea; but, as President Barbicane suggested, they must
act quickly, so as to lose as little as possible of that air
whose elasticity would rapidly have spread it into space.
The bolts of the right scuttle, the opening of which measured
about twelve inches across, were carefully drawn, while Michel,
quite grieved, prepared to launch his dog into space. The glass,
raised by a powerful lever, which enabled it to overcome the
pressure of the inside air on the walls of the projectile,
turned rapidly on its hinges, and Satellite was thrown out.
Scarcely a particle of air could have escaped, and the operation
was so successful that later on Barbicane did not fear to
dispose of the rubbish which encumbered the car.
QUESTION AND ANSWER
On the 4th of December, when the travelers awoke after
fifty-four hours' journey, the chronometer marked five o'clock
of the terrestrial morning. In time it was just over five
hours and forty minutes, half of that assigned to their sojourn
in the projectile; but they had already accomplished nearly
seven-tenths of the way. This peculiarity was due to their
regularly decreasing speed.
Now when they observed the earth through the lower window,
it looked like nothing more than a dark spot, drowned in the
solar rays. No more crescent, no more cloudy light! The next
day, at midnight, the earth would be new, at the very moment
when the moon would be full. Above, the orb of night was nearing
the line followed by the projectile, so as to meet it at the
given hour. All around the black vault was studded with brilliant
points, which seemed to move slowly; but, at the great distance
they were from them, their relative size did not seem to change.
The sun and stars appeared exactly as they do to us upon earth.
As to the moon, she was considerably larger; but the travelers'
glasses, not very powerful, did not allow them as yet to make
any useful observations upon her surface, or reconnoiter her
topographically or geologically.
Thus the time passed in never-ending conversations all about
the moon. Each one brought forward his own contingent of
particular facts; Barbicane and Nicholl always serious, Michel
Ardan always enthusiastic. The projectile, its situation,
its direction, incidents which might happen, the precautions
necessitated by their fall on to the moon, were inexhaustible
matters of conjecture.
As they were breakfasting, a question of Michel's, relating to
the projectile, provoked rather a curious answer from Barbicane,
which is worth repeating. Michel, supposing it to be roughly
stopped, while still under its formidable initial speed, wished
to know what the consequences of the stoppage would have been.
"But," said Barbicane, "I do not see how it could have been stopped."
"But let us suppose so," said Michel.
"It is an impossible supposition," said the practical Barbicane;
"unless that impulsive force had failed; but even then its speed
would diminish by degrees, and it would not have stopped suddenly."
"Admit that it had struck a body in space."
"Why that enormous meteor which we met."
"Then," said Nicholl, "the projectile would have been broken
into a thousand pieces, and we with it."
"More than that," replied Barbicane; "we should have been burned
"Burned?" exclaimed Michel, "by Jove! I am sorry it did not
happen, `just to see.'"
"And you would have seen," replied Barbicane. "It is known now
that heat is only a modification of motion. When water is
warmed-- that is to say, when heat is added to it--its particles
are set in motion."
"Well," said michel, "that is an ingenious theory!"
"And a true one, my worthy friend; for it explains every
phenomenon of caloric. Heat is but the motion of atoms, a
simple oscillation of the particles of a body. When they apply
the brake to a train, the train comes to a stop; but what
becomes of the motion which it had previously possessed? It is
transformed into heat, and the brake becomes hot. Why do they
grease the axles of the wheels? To prevent their heating,
because this heat would be generated by the motion which is thus
lost by transformation."
"Yes, I understand," replied Michel, "perfectly. For example,
when I have run a long time, when I am swimming, when I am
perspiring in large drops, why am I obliged to stop?
Simply because my motion is changed into heat."
Barbicane could not help smiling at Michel's reply; then,
returning to his theory, said:
"Thus, in case of a shock, it would have been with our
projectile as with a ball which falls in a burning state after
having struck the metal plate; it is its motion which is turned
into heat. Consequently I affirm that, if our projectile had
struck the meteor, its speed thus suddenly checked would have
raised a heat great enough to turn it into vapor instantaneously."
"Then," asked Nicholl, "what would happen if the earth's motion
were to stop suddenly?"
"Her temperature would be raised to such a pitch," said
Barbicane, "that she would be at once reduced to vapor."
"Well," said Michel, "that is a way of ending the earth which
will greatly simplify things."
"And if the earth fell upon the sun?" asked Nicholl.
"According to calculation," replied Barbicane, "the fall would
develop a heat equal to that produced by 16,000 globes of coal,
each equal in bulk to our terrestrial globe."
"Good additional heat for the sun," replied Michel Ardan, "of
which the inhabitants of Uranus or Neptune would doubtless not
complain; they must be perished with cold on their planets."
"Thus, my friends," said Barbicane, "all motion suddenly stopped
produces heat. And this theory allows us to infer that the heat
of the solar disc is fed by a hail of meteors falling
incessantly on its surface. They have even calculated----"
"Oh, dear!" murmured Michel, "the figures are coming."
"They have even calculated," continued the imperturbable Barbicane,
"that the shock of each meteor on the sun ought to produce a heat
equal to that of 4,000 masses of coal of an equal bulk."
"And what is the solar heat?" asked Michel.
"It is equal to that produced by the combustion of a stratum of
coal surrounding the sun to a depth of forty-seven miles."
"And that heat----"
"Would be able to boil two billions nine hundred millions of
cubic myriameters  of water."
 The myriameter is equal to rather more than 10,936
cubic yards English.
"And it does not roast us!" exclaimed Michel.
"No," replied Barbicane, "because the terrestrial atmosphere
absorbs four-tenths of the solar heat; besides, the quantity of
heat intercepted by the earth is but a billionth part of the
"I see that all is for the best," said Michel, "and that this
atmosphere is a useful invention; for it not only allows us to
breathe, but it prevents us from roasting."
"Yes!" said Nicholl, "unfortunately, it will not be the same in
"Bah!" said Michel, always hopeful. "If there are inhabitants,
they must breathe. If there are no longer any, they must have
left enough oxygen for three people, if only at the bottom of
ravines, where its own weight will cause it to accumulate, and
we will not climb the mountains; that is all." And Michel,
rising, went to look at the lunar disc, which shone with
"By Jove!" said he, "it must be hot up there!"
"Without considering," replied Nicholl, "that the day lasts 360 hours!"
"And to compensate that," said Barbicane, "the nights have the
same length; and as heat is restored by radiation, their
temperature can only be that of the planetary space."
"A pretty country, that!" exclaimed Michel. "Never mind!
I wish I was there! Ah! my dear comrades, it will be rather
curious to have the earth for our moon, to see it rise on the
horizon, to recognize the shape of its continents, and to say
to oneself, `There is America, there is Europe;' then to follow
it when it is about to lose itself in the sun's rays! By the
bye, Barbicane, have the Selenites eclipses?"
"Yes, eclipses of the sun," replied Barbicane, "when the centers
of the three orbs are on a line, the earth being in the middle.
But they are only partial, during which the earth, cast like a
screen upon the solar disc, allows the greater portion to be seen."
"And why," asked Nicholl, "is there no total eclipse? Does not
the cone of the shadow cast by the earth extend beyond the moon?"
"Yes, if we do not take into consideration the refraction
produced by the terrestrial atmosphere. No, if we take that
refraction into consideration. Thus let
the horizontal parallel, and p the apparent semidiameter----"
"Oh!" said Michel. "Do speak plainly, you man of algebra!"
"Very well, replied Barbicane; "in popular language the mean
distance from the moon to the earth being sixty terrestrial
radii, the length of the cone of the shadow, on account of
refraction, is reduced to less than forty-two radii.
The result is that when there are eclipses, the moon finds
itself beyond the cone of pure shadow, and that the sun sends
her its rays, not only from its edges, but also from its center."
"Then," said Michel, in a merry tone, "why are there eclipses,
when there ought not to be any?"
"Simply because the solar rays are weakened by this refraction,
and the atmosphere through which they pass extinguished the
greater part of them!"
"That reason satisfies me," replied Michel. "Besides we shall
see when we get there. Now, tell me, Barbicane, do you believe
that the moon is an old comet?"
"There's an idea!"
"Yes," replied Michel, with an amiable swagger, "I have a few
ideas of that sort."
"But that idea does not spring from Michel," answered Nicholl.
"Well, then, I am a plagiarist."
"No doubt about it. According to the ancients, the Arcadians
pretend that their ancestors inhabited the earth before the moon
became her satellite. Starting from this fact, some scientific
men have seen in the moon a comet whose orbit will one day bring
it so near to the earth that it will be held there by its attraction."
"Is there any truth in this hypothesis?" asked Michel.
"None whatever," said Barbicane, "and the proof is, that the
moon has preserved no trace of the gaseous envelope which always
"But," continued Nicholl, "Before becoming the earth's satellite,
could not the moon, when in her perihelion, pass so near the sun
as by evaporation to get rid of all those gaseous substances?"
"It is possible, friend Nicholl, but not probable."
"Because-- Faith I do not know."
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel, "what hundred of volumes we might make
of all that we do not know!"
"Ah! indeed. What time is it?" asked Barbicane.
"Three o'clock," answered Nicholl.
"How time goes," said Michel, "in the conversation of scientific
men such as we are! Certainly, I feel I know too much! I feel
that I am becoming a well!"
Saying which, Michel hoisted himself to the roof of the projectile,
"to observe the moon better," he pretended. During this time his
companions were watching through the lower glass. Nothing new to note!
When Michel Ardan came down, he went to the side scuttle; and
suddenly they heard an exclamation of surprise!
"What is it?" asked Barbicane.
The president approached the window, and saw a sort of flattened
sack floating some yards from the projectile. This object
seemed as motionless as the projectile, and was consequently
animated with the same ascending movement.
"What is that machine?" continued Michel Ardan. "Is it one of
the bodies which our projectile keeps within its attraction, and
which will accompany it to the moon?"
"What astonishes me," said Nicholl, "is that the specific weight
of the body, which is certainly less than that of the
projectile, allows it to keep so perfectly on a level with it."
"Nicholl," replied Barbicane, after a moment's reflection, "I do
not know what the object it, but I do know why it maintains our level."
"Because we are floating in space, my dear captain, and in space
bodies fall or move (which is the same thing) with equal speed
whatever be their weight or form; it is the air, which by its
resistance creates these differences in weight. When you create
a vacuum in a tube, the objects you send through it, grains of
dust or grains of lead, fall with the same rapidity. Here in
space is the same cause and the same effect."
"Just so," said Nicholl, "and everything we throw out of the
projectile will accompany it until it reaches the moon."
"Ah! fools that we are!" exclaimed Michel.
"Why that expletive?" asked Barbicane.
"Because we might have filled the projectile with useful objects,
books, instruments, tools, etc. We could have thrown them all
out, and all would have followed in our train. But happy thought!
Why cannot we walk outside like the meteor? Why cannot we launch
into space through the scuttle? What enjoyment it would be to
feel oneself thus suspended in ether, more favored than the birds
who must use their wings to keep themselves up!"
"Granted," said Barbicane, "but how to breathe?"
"Hang the air, to fail so inopportunely!"
"But if it did not fail, Michel, your density being less than
that of the projectile, you would soon be left behind."
"Then we must remain in our car?"
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel, in a load voice.
"What is the matter," asked Nicholl.
"I know, I guess, what this pretended meteor is! It is no
asteroid which is accompanying us! It is not a piece of a planet."
"What is it then?" asked Barbicane.
"It is our unfortunate dog! It is Diana's husband!"
Indeed, this deformed, unrecognizable object, reduced to
nothing, was the body of Satellite, flattened like a bagpipe
without wind, and ever mounting, mounting!
A MOMENT OF INTOXICATION
Thus a phenomenon, curious but explicable, was happening under
these strange conditions.
Every object thrown from the projectile would follow the same
course and never stop until it did. There was a subject for
conversation which the whole evening could not exhaust.
Besides, the excitement of the three travelers increased as they
drew near the end of their journey. They expected unforseen
incidents, and new phenomena; and nothing would have astonished
them in the frame of mind they then were in. Their overexcited
imagination went faster than the projectile, whose speed was
evidently diminishing, though insensibly to themselves. But the
moon grew larger to their eyes, and they fancied if they
stretched out their hands they could seize it.
The next day, the 5th of November, at five in the morning,
all three were on foot. That day was to be the last of their
journey, if all calculations were true. That very night, at
twelve o'clock, in eighteen hours, exactly at the full moon,
they would reach its brilliant disc. The next midnight would
see that journey ended, the most extraordinary of ancient or
modern times. Thus from the first of the morning, through the
scuttles silvered by its rays, they saluted the orb of night
with a confident and joyous hurrah.
The moon was advancing majestically along the starry firmament.
A few more degrees, and she would reach the exact point where
her meeting with the projectile was to take place.
According to his own observations, Barbicane reckoned that they
would land on her northern hemisphere, where stretch immense plains,
and where mountains are rare. A favorable circumstance if, as
they thought, the lunar atmosphere was stored only in its depths.
"Besides," observed Michel Ardan, "a plain is easier to
disembark upon than a mountain. A Selenite, deposited in Europe
on the summit of Mont Blanc, or in Asia on the top of the
Himalayas, would not be quite in the right place."
"And," added Captain Nicholl, "on a flat ground, the projectile
will remain motionless when it has once touched; whereas on a
declivity it would roll like an avalanche, and not being
squirrels we should not come out safe and sound. So it is all
for the best."
Indeed, the success of the audacious attempt no longer
appeared doubtful. But Barbicane was preoccupied with one
thought; but not wishing to make his companions uneasy, he
kept silence on this subject.
The direction the projectile was taking toward the moon's
northern hemisphere, showed that her course had been
slightly altered. The discharge, mathematically calculated,
would carry the projectile to the very center of the lunar disc.
If it did not land there, there must have been some deviation.
What had caused it? Barbicane could neither imagine nor
determine the importance of the deviation, for there were no
points to go by.
He hoped, however, that it would have no other result than that
of bringing them nearer the upper border of the moon, a region
more suitable for landing.
Without imparting his uneasiness to his companions, Barbicane
contented himself with constantly observing the moon, in order
to see whether the course of the projectile would not be
altered; for the situation would have been terrible if it failed
in its aim, and being carried beyond the disc should be launched
into interplanetary space. At that moment, the moon, instead of
appearing flat like a disc, showed its convexity. If the sun's
rays had struck it obliquely, the shadow thrown would have brought
out the high mountains, which would have been clearly detached.
The eye might have gazed into the crater's gaping abysses,
and followed the capricious fissures which wound through the
immense plains. But all relief was as yet leveled in
intense brilliancy. They could scarcely distinguish those
large spots which give the moon the appearance of a human face.
"Face, indeed!" said Michel Ardan; "but I am sorry for the
amiable sister of Apollo. A very pitted face!"
But the travelers, now so near the end, were incessantly
observing this new world. They imagined themselves walking
through its unknown countries, climbing its highest peaks,
descending into its lowest depths. Here and there they fancied
they saw vast seas, scarcely kept together under so rarefied an
atmosphere, and water-courses emptying the mountain tributaries.
Leaning over the abyss, they hoped to catch some sounds from
that orb forever mute in the solitude of space. That last day
They took down the most trifling details. A vague uneasiness
took possession of them as they neared the end. This uneasiness
would have been doubled had they felt how their speed had decreased.
It would have seemed to them quite insufficient to carry them to
the end. It was because the projectile then "weighed" almost nothing.
Its weight was ever decreasing, and would be entirely annihilated on
that line where the lunar and terrestrial attractions would
neutralize each other.
But in spite of his preoccupation, Michel Ardan did not forget
to prepare the morning repast with his accustomed punctuality.
They ate with a good appetite. Nothing was so excellent as the
soup liquefied by the heat of the gas; nothing better than the
preserved meat. Some glasses of good French wine crowned the
repast, causing Michel Ardan to remark that the lunar vines,
warmed by that ardent sun, ought to distill even more generous
wines; that is, if they existed. In any case, the far-seeing
Frenchman had taken care not to forget in his collection some
precious cuttings of the Medoc and Cote d'Or, upon which he
founded his hopes.
Reiset and Regnaut's apparatus worked with great regularity.
Not an atom of carbonic acid resisted the potash; and as to
the oxygen, Captain Nicholl said "it was of the first quality."
The little watery vapor enclosed in the projectile mixing with
the air tempered the dryness; and many apartments in London,
Paris, or New York, and many theaters, were certainly not in
such a healthy condition.
But that it might act with regularity, the apparatus must be
kept in perfect order; so each morning Michel visited the escape
regulators, tried the taps, and regulated the heat of the gas by
the pyrometer. Everything had gone well up to that time, and
the travelers, imitating the worthy Joseph T. Maston, began to
acquire a degree of embonpoint which would have rendered them
unrecognizable if their imprisonment had been prolonged to
some months. In a word, they behaved like chickens in a coop;
they were getting fat.
In looking through the scuttle Barbicane saw the specter of the
dog, and other divers objects which had been thrown from the
projectile, obstinately following them. Diana howled
lugubriously on seeing the remains of Satellite, which seemed as
motionless as if they reposed on solid earth.
"Do you know, my friends," said Michel Ardan, "that if one of us
had succumbed to the shock consequent on departure, we should
have had a great deal of trouble to bury him? What am I saying?
to etherize him, as here ether takes the place of earth.
You see the accusing body would have followed us into space like
"That would have been sad," said Nicholl.
"Ah!" continued Michel, "what I regret is not being able to take a
walk outside. What voluptuousness to float amid this radiant ether,
to bathe oneself in it, to wrap oneself in the sun's pure rays.
If Barbicane had only thought of furnishing us with a diving
apparatus and an air-pump, I could have ventured out and assumed
fanciful attitudes of feigned monsters on the top of the projectile."
"Well, old Michel," replied Barbicane, "you would not have made
a feigned monster long, for in spite of your diver's dress, swollen
by the expansion of air within you, you would have burst like a
shell, or rather like a balloon which has risen too high. So do
not regret it, and do not forget this-- as long as we float in
space, all sentimental walks beyond the projectile are forbidden."
Michel Ardan allowed himself to be convinced to a certain extent.
He admitted that the thing was difficult but not impossible,
a word which he never uttered.
The conversation passed from this subject to another, not failing
him for an instant. It seemed to the three friends as though,
under present conditions, ideas shot up in their brains as leaves
shoot at the first warmth of spring. They felt bewildered. In the
middle of the questions and answers which crossed each other,
Nicholl put one question which did not find an immediate solution.
"Ah, indeed!" said he; "it is all very well to go to the moon,
but how to get back again?"
His two interlocutors looked surprised. One would have thought
that this possibility now occurred to them for the first time.
"What do you mean by that, Nicholl?" asked Barbicane gravely.
"To ask for means to leave a country," added Michel, "When we
have not yet arrived there, seems to me rather inopportune."
"I do not say that, wishing to draw back," replied Nicholl;
"but I repeat my question, and I ask, `How shall we return?'"
"I know nothing about it," answered Barbicane.
"And I," said Michel, "if I had known how to return, I would
never have started."
"There's an answer!" cried Nicholl.
"I quite approve of Michel's words," said Barbicane; "and add,
that the question has no real interest. Later, when we think it
is advisable to return, we will take counsel together. If the
Columbiad is not there, the projectile will be."
"That is a step certainly. A ball without a gun!"
"The gun," replied Barbicane, "can be manufactured. The powder
can be made. Neither metals, saltpeter, nor coal can fail in
the depths of the moon, and we need only go 8,000 leagues in
order to fall upon the terrestrial globe by virtue of the mere
laws of weight."
"Enough," said Michel with animation. "Let it be no longer a
question of returning: we have already entertained it too long.
As to communicating with our former earthly colleagues, that
will not be difficult."
"By means of meteors launched by lunar volcanoes."
"Well thought of, Michel," said Barbicane in a convinced tone
of voice. "Laplace has calculated that a force five times greater
than that of our gun would suffice to send a meteor from the
moon to the earth, and there is not one volcano which has not a
greater power of propulsion than that."
"Hurrah!" exclaimed Michel; "these meteors are handy postmen,
and cost nothing. And how we shall be able to laugh at the
post-office administration! But now I think of it----"
"What do you think of?"
"A capital idea. Why did we not fasten a thread to our
projectile, and we could have exchanged telegrams with the earth?"
"The deuce!" answered Nicholl. "Do you consider the weight of
a thread 250,000 miles long nothing?"
"As nothing. They could have trebled the Columbiad's charge;
they could have quadrupled or quintupled it!" exclaimed Michel,
with whom the verb took a higher intonation each time.
"There is but one little objection to make to your proposition,"
replied Barbicane, "which is that, during the rotary motion of
the globe, our thread would have wound itself round it like a
chain on a capstan, and that it would inevitably have brought us
to the ground."
"By the thirty-nine stars of the Union!" said Michel, "I have
nothing but impracticable ideas to-day; ideas worthy of J.
T. Maston. But I have a notion that, if we do not return to
earth, J. T. Maston will be able to come to us."
"Yes, he'll come," replied Barbicane; "he is a worthy and a
courageous comrade. Besides, what is easier? Is not the
Columbiad still buried in the soil of Florida? Is cotton and
nitric acid wanted wherewith to manufacture the pyroxyle?
Will not the moon pass the zenith of Florida? In eighteen
years' time will she not occupy exactly the same place as to-day?"
"Yes," continued Michel, "yes, Maston will come, and with him
our friends Elphinstone, Blomsberry, all the members of the Gun
Club, and they will be well received. And by and by they will
run trains of projectiles between the earth and the moon!
Hurrah for J. T. Maston!"
It is probable that, if the Hon. J. T. Maston did not hear the
hurrahs uttered in his honor, his ears at least tingled. What was
he doing then? Doubtless, posted in the Rocky Mountains, at the
station of Long's Peak, he was trying to find the invisible
projectile gravitating in space. If he was thinking of his dear
companions, we must allow that they were not far behind him; and
that, under the influence of a strange excitement, they were
devoting to him their best thoughts.
But whence this excitement, which was evidently growing upon the
tenants of the projectile? Their sobriety could not be doubted.
This strange irritation of the brain, must it be attributed to
the peculiar circumstances under which they found themselves, to
their proximity to the orb of night, from which only a few hours
separated them, to some secret influence of the moon acting upon
their nervous system? Their faces were as rosy as if they had
been exposed to the roaring flames of an oven; their voices
resounded in loud accents; their words escaped like a champagne
cork driven out by carbonic acid; their gestures became annoying,
they wanted so much room to perform them; and, strange to say,
they none of them noticed this great tension of the mind.
"Now," said Nicholl, in a short tone, "now that I do not know
whether we shall ever return from the moon, I want to know what
we are going to do there?"
"What we are going to do there?" replied Barbicane, stamping
with his foot as if he was in a fencing saloon; "I do not know."
"You do not know!" exclaimed Michel, with a bellow which
provoked a sonorous echo in the projectile.
"No, I have not even thought about it," retorted Barbicane, in
the same loud tone.
"Well, I know," replied Michel.
"Speak, then," cried Nicholl, who could no longer contain the
growling of his voice.
"I shall speak if it suits me," exclaimed Michel, seizing his
companions' arms with violence.
"It must suit you," said Barbicane, with an eye on fire and a
threatening hand. "It was you who drew us into this frightful
journey, and we want to know what for."
"Yes," said the captain, "now that I do not know where I am
going, I want to know why I am going."
"Why?" exclaimed Michel, jumping a yard high, "why? To take
possession of the moon in the name of the United States; to add
a fortieth State to the Union; to colonize the lunar regions;
to cultivate them, to people them, to transport thither all the
prodigies of art, of science, and industry; to civilize the
Selenites, unless they are more civilized than we are; and to
constitute them a republic, if they are not already one!"
"And if there are no Selenites?" retorted Nicholl, who, under the
influence of this unaccountable intoxication, was very contradictory.
"Who said that there were no Selenites?" exclaimed Michel in a
"I do," howled Nicholl.
"Captain," said Michel, "do not repreat that insolence, or I
will knock your teeth down your throat!"
The two adversaries were going to fall upon each other, and the
incoherent discussion threatened to merge into a fight, when
Barbicane intervened with one bound.
"Stop, miserable men," said he, separating his two companions;
"if there are no Selenites, we will do without them."
"Yes," exclaimed Michel, who was not particular; "yes, we will
do without them. We have only to make Selenites. Down with
"The empire of the moon belongs to us," said Nicholl.
"Let us three constitute the republic."
"I will be the congress," cried Michel.
"And I the senate," retorted Nicholl.
"And Barbicane, the president," howled Michel.
"Not a president elected by the nation," replied Barbicane.
"Very well, a president elected by the congress," cried Michel;
"and as I am the congress, you are unanimously elected!"
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for President Barbicane," exclaimed Nicholl.
"Hip! hip! hip!" vociferated Michel Ardan.
Then the president and the senate struck up in a tremendous
voice the popular song "Yankee Doodle," while from the congress
resounded the masculine tones of the "Marseillaise."
Then they struck up a frantic dance, with maniacal gestures,
idiotic stampings, and somersaults like those of the boneless
clowns in the circus. Diana, joining in the dance, and howling
in her turn, jumped to the top of the projectile. An unaccountable
flapping of wings was then heard amid most fantastic cock-crows,
while five or six hens fluttered like bats against the walls.
Then the three traveling companions, acted upon by some
unaccountable influence above that of intoxication, inflamed by
the air which had set their respiratory apparatus on fire, fell
motionless to the bottom of the projectile.