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The Moon-Voyage by Jules Verne

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I. FROM 10.20 P.M. TO 10.47 P.M.























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During the Federal war in the United States a new and very influential
club was established in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. It is well
known with what energy the military instinct was developed amongst that
nation of shipowners, shopkeepers, and mechanics. Mere tradesmen jumped
their counters to become extempore captains, colonels, and generals
without having passed the Military School at West Point; they soon
rivalled their colleagues of the old continent, and, like them, gained
victories by dint of lavishing bullets, millions, and men.

But where Americans singularly surpassed Europeans was in the science of
ballistics, or of throwing massive weapons by the use of an engine; not
that their arms attained a higher degree of perfection, but they were of
unusual dimensions, and consequently of hitherto unknown ranges. The
English, French, and Prussians have nothing to learn about flank,
running, enfilading, or point-blank firing; but their cannon, howitzers,
and mortars are mere pocket-pistols compared with the formidable engines
of American artillery.

This fact ought to astonish no one. The Yankees, the first mechanicians
in the world, are born engineers, just as Italians are musicians and
Germans metaphysicians. Thence nothing more natural than to see them
bring their audacious ingenuity to bear on the science of ballistics.
Hence those gigantic cannon, much less useful than sewing-machines, but
quite as astonishing, and much more admired. The marvels of this style
by Parrott, Dahlgren, and Rodman are well known. There was nothing left
the Armstrongs, Pallisers, and Treuille de Beaulieux but to bow before
their transatlantic rivals.

Therefore during the terrible struggle between Northerners and
Southerners, artillerymen were in great request; the Union newspapers
published their inventions with enthusiasm, and there was no little
tradesman nor _naif_ "booby" who did not bother his head day and night
with calculations about impossible trajectory engines.

Now when an American has an idea he seeks another American to share it.
If they are three, they elect a president and two secretaries. Given
four, they elect a clerk, and a company is established. Five convoke a
general meeting, and the club is formed. It thus happened at Baltimore.
The first man who invented a new cannon took into partnership the first
man who cast it and the first man that bored it. Such was the nucleus of
the Gun Club. One month after its formation it numbered eighteen hundred
and thirty-three effective members, and thirty thousand five hundred and
seventy-five corresponding members.

One condition was imposed as a _sine qua non_ upon every one who wished
to become a member--that of having invented, or at least perfected, a
cannon; or, in default of a cannon, a firearm of some sort. But, to tell
the truth, mere inventors of fifteen-barrelled rifles, revolvers, or
sword-pistols did not enjoy much consideration. Artillerymen were always
preferred to them in every circumstance.

"The estimation in which they are held," said one day a learned orator
of the Gun Club, "is in proportion to the size of their cannon, and in
direct ratio to the square of distance attained by their projectiles!"

A little more and it would have been Newton's law of gravitation applied
to moral order.

Once the Gun Club founded, it can be easily imagined its effect upon the
inventive genius of the Americans. War-engines took colossal
proportions, and projectiles launched beyond permitted distances cut
inoffensive pedestrians to pieces. All these inventions left the timid
instruments of European artillery far behind them. This may be estimated
by the following figures:--

Formerly, "in the good old times," a thirty-six pounder, at a distance
of three hundred feet, would cut up thirty-six horses, attacked in
flank, and sixty-eight men. The art was then in its infancy.
Projectiles have since made their way. The Rodman gun that sent a
projectile weighing half a ton a distance of seven miles could easily
have cut up a hundred and fifty horses and three hundred men. There was
some talk at the Gun Club of making a solemn experiment with it. But if
the horses consented to play their part, the men unfortunately were

However that may be, the effect of these cannon was very deadly, and at
each discharge the combatants fell like ears before a scythe. After such
projectiles what signified the famous ball which, at Coutras, in 1587,
disabled twenty-five men; and the one which, at Zorndorff, in 1758,
killed forty fantassins; and in 1742, Kesseldorf's Austrian cannon, of
which every shot levelled seventy enemies with the ground? What was the
astonishing firing at Jena or Austerlitz, which decided the fate of the
battle? During the Federal war much more wonderful things had been seen.
At the battle of Gettysburg, a conical projectile thrown by a
rifle-barrel cut up a hundred and seventy-three Confederates, and at the
passage of the Potomac a Rodman ball sent two hundred and fifteen
Southerners into an evidently better world. A formidable mortar must
also be mentioned, invented by J.T. Maston, a distinguished member and
perpetual secretary of the Gun Club, the result of which was far more
deadly, seeing that, at its trial shot, it killed three hundred and
thirty-seven persons--by bursting, it is true.

What can be added to these figures, so eloquent in themselves? Nothing.
So the following calculation obtained by the statistician Pitcairn will
be admitted without contestation: by dividing the number of victims
fallen under the projectiles by that of the members of the Gun Club, he
found that each one of them had killed, on his own account, an average
of two thousand three hundred and seventy-five men and a fraction.

By considering such a result it will be seen that the single
preoccupation of this learned society was the destruction of humanity
philanthropically, and the perfecting of firearms considered as
instruments of civilisation. It was a company of Exterminating Angels,
at bottom the best fellows in the world.

It must be added that these Yankees, brave as they have ever proved
themselves, did not confine themselves to formulae, but sacrificed
themselves to their theories. Amongst them might be counted officers of
every rank, those who had just made their _debut_ in the profession of
arms, and those who had grown old on their gun-carriage. Many whose
names figured in the book of honour of the Gun Club remained on the
field of battle, and of those who came back the greater part bore marks
of their indisputable valour. Crutches, wooden legs, articulated arms,
hands with hooks, gutta-percha jaws, silver craniums, platinum noses,
nothing was wanting to the collection; and the above-mentioned Pitcairn
likewise calculated that in the Gun Club there was not quite one arm
amongst every four persons, and only two legs amongst six.

But these valiant artillerymen paid little heed to such small matters,
and felt justly proud when the report of a battle stated the number of
victims at tenfold the quantity of projectiles expended.

One day, however, a sad and lamentable day, peace was signed by the
survivors of the war, the noise of firing gradually ceased, the mortars
were silent, the howitzers were muzzled for long enough, and the cannon,
with muzzles depressed, were stored in the arsenals, the shots were
piled up in the parks, the bloody reminiscences were effaced, cotton
shrubs grew magnificently on the well-manured fields, mourning garments
began to be worn-out, as well as sorrow, and the Gun Club had nothing
whatever to do.

Certain old hands, inveterate workers, still went on with their
calculations in ballistics; they still imagined gigantic bombs and
unparalleled howitzers. But what was the use of vain theories that could
not be put in practice? So the saloons were deserted, the servants slept
in the antechambers, the newspapers grew mouldy on the tables, from dark
corners issued sad snores, and the members of the Gun Club, formerly so
noisy, now reduced to silence by the disastrous peace, slept the sleep
of Platonic artillery!

"This is distressing," said brave Tom Hunter, whilst his wooden legs
were carbonising at the fireplace of the smoking-room. "Nothing to do!
Nothing to look forward to! What a tiresome existence! Where is the time
when cannon awoke you every morning with its joyful reports?"

"That time is over," answered dandy Bilsby, trying to stretch the arms
he had lost. "There was some fun then! You invented an howitzer, and it
was hardly cast before you ran to try it on the enemy; then you went
back to the camp with an encouragement from Sherman, or a shake of the
hands from MacClellan! But now the generals have gone back to their
counters, and instead of cannon-balls they expedite inoffensive cotton
bales! Ah, by Saint Barb! the future of artillery is lost to America!"

"Yes, Bilsby," cried Colonel Blomsberry, "it is too bad! One fine
morning you leave your tranquil occupations, you are drilled in the use
of arms, you leave Baltimore for the battle-field, you conduct yourself
like a hero, and in two years, three years at the latest, you are
obliged to leave the fruit of so many fatigues, to go to sleep in
deplorable idleness, and keep your hands in your pockets."

The valiant colonel would have found it very difficult to give such a
proof of his want of occupation, though it was not the pockets that were

"And no war in prospect, then," said the famous J.T. Maston, scratching
his gutta-percha cranium with his steel hook; "there is not a cloud on
the horizon now that there is so much to do in the science of artillery!
I myself finished this very morning a diagram with plan, basin, and
elevation of a mortar destined to change the laws of warfare!"

"Indeed!" replied Tom Hunter, thinking involuntarily of the Honourable
J.T. Maston's last essay.

"Indeed!" answered Maston. "But what is the use of the good results of
such studies and so many difficulties conquered? It is mere waste of
time. The people of the New World seem determined to live in peace, and
our bellicose _Tribune_ has gone as far as to predict approaching
catastrophes due to the scandalous increase of population!"

"Yet, Maston," said Colonel Blomsberry, "they are always fighting in
Europe to maintain the principle of nationalities!"

"What of that?"

"Why, there might be something to do over there, and if they accepted
our services--"

"What are you thinking of?" cried Bilsby. "Work at ballistics for the
benefit of foreigners!"

"Perhaps that would be better than not doing it at all," answered the

"Doubtless," said J.T. Maston, "it would be better, but such an
expedient cannot be thought of."

"Why so?" asked the colonel.

"Because their ideas of advancement would be contrary to all our
American customs. Those folks seem to think that you cannot be a
general-in-chief without having served as second lieutenant, which comes
to the same as saying that no one can point a gun that has not cast one.
Now that is simply--"

"Absurd!" replied Tom Hunter, whittling the arms of his chair with his
bowie-knife; "and as things are so, there is nothing left for us but to
plant tobacco or distil whale-oil!"

"What!" shouted J.T. Maston, "shall we not employ these last years of
our existence in perfecting firearms? Will not a fresh opportunity
present itself to try the ranges of our projectiles? Will the atmosphere
be no longer illuminated by the lightning of our cannons? Won't some
international difficulty crop up that will allow us to declare war
against some transatlantic power? Won't France run down one of our
steamers, or won't England, in defiance of the rights of nations, hang
up three or four of our countrymen?"

"No, Maston," answered Colonel Blomsberry; "no such luck! No, not one of
those incidents will happen; and if one did, it would be of no use to
us. American sensitiveness is declining daily, and we are going to the

"Yes, we are growing quite humble," replied Bilsby.

"And we are humiliated!" answered Tom Hunter.

"All that is only too true," replied J.T. Maston, with fresh vehemence.
"There are a thousand reasons for fighting floating about, and still we
don't fight! We economise legs and arms, and that to the profit of folks
that don't know what to do with them. Look here, without looking any
farther for a motive for war, did not North America formerly belong to
the English?"

"Doubtless," answered Tom Hunter, angrily poking the fire with the end
of his crutch.

"Well," replied J.T. Maston, "why should not England in its turn belong
to the Americans?"

"It would be but justice," answered Colonel Blomsberry.

"Go and propose that to the President of the United States," cried J.T.
Maston, "and see what sort of a reception you would get."

"It would not be a bad reception," murmured Bilsby between the four
teeth he had saved from battle.

"I'faith," cried J.T. Maston, "they need not count upon my vote in the
next elections."

"Nor upon ours," answered with common accord these bellicose invalids.

"In the meantime," continued J.T. Maston, "and to conclude, if they do
not furnish me with the opportunity of trying my new mortar on a real
battle-field, I shall send in my resignation as member of the Gun Club,
and I shall go and bury myself in the backwoods of Arkansas."

"We will follow you there," answered the interlocutors of the
enterprising J.T. Maston.

Things had come to that pass, and the club, getting more excited, was
menaced with approaching dissolution, when an unexpected event came to
prevent so regrettable a catastrophe.

The very day after the foregoing conversation each member of the club
received a circular couched in these terms:--

"Baltimore, October 3rd.

"The president of the Gun Club has the honour to inform his colleagues
that at the meeting on the 5th ultimo he will make them a communication
of an extremely interesting nature. He therefore begs that they, to the
suspension of all other business, will attend, in accordance with the
present invitation,

"Their devoted colleague,




On the 5th of October, at 8 p.m., a dense crowd pressed into the saloons
of the Gun Club, 21, Union-square. All the members of the club residing
at Baltimore had gone on the invitation of their president. The express
brought corresponding members by hundreds, and if the meeting-hall had
not been so large, the crowd of _savants_ could not have found room in
it; they overflowed into the neighbouring rooms, down the passages, and
even into the courtyards; there they ran against the populace who were
pressing against the doors, each trying to get into the front rank, all
eager to learn the important communication of President Barbicane, all
pressing, squeezing, crushing with that liberty of action peculiar to
the masses brought up in the idea of self-government.

That evening any stranger who might have chanced to be in Baltimore
could not have obtained a place at any price in the large hall; it was
exclusively reserved to residing or corresponding members; no one else
was admitted; and the city magnates, common councillors, and select men
were compelled to mingle with their inferiors in order to catch stray
news from the interior.

The immense hall presented a curious spectacle; it was marvellously
adapted to the purpose for which it was built. Lofty pillars formed of
cannon, superposed upon huge mortars as a base, supported the fine
ironwork of the arches--real cast-iron lacework.

Trophies of blunderbusses, matchlocks, arquebuses, carbines, all sorts
of ancient or modern firearms, were picturesquely enlaced against the
walls. The gas, in full flame, came out of a thousand revolvers grouped
in the form of lustres, whilst candlesticks of pistols, and candelabra
made of guns done up in sheaves, completed this display of light. Models
of cannons, specimens of bronze, targets spotted with shot-marks,
plaques broken by the shock of the Gun Club, balls, assortments of
rammers and sponges, chaplets of shells, necklaces of projectiles,
garlands of howitzers--in a word, all the tools of the artilleryman
surprised the eyes by their wonderful arrangement, and induced a belief
that their real purpose was more ornamental than deadly.

In the place of honour was seen, covered by a splendid glass case, a
piece of breech, broken and twisted under the effort of the powder--a
precious fragment of J.T. Maston's cannon.

At the extremity of the hall the president, assisted by four
secretaries, occupied a wide platform. His chair, placed on a carved
gun-carriage, was modelled upon the powerful proportions of a 32-inch
mortar; it was pointed at an angle of 90 degs., and hung upon trunnions
so that the president could use it as a rocking-chair, very agreeable in
great heat. Upon the desk, a huge iron plate, supported upon six
carronades, stood a very tasteful inkstand, made of a beautifully-chased
Spanish piece, and a report-bell, which, when required, went off like a
revolver. During the vehement discussions this new sort of bell scarcely
sufficed to cover the voices of this legion of excited artillerymen.

In front of the desk, benches, arranged in zigzags, like the
circumvallations of intrenchment, formed a succession of bastions and
curtains where the members of the Gun Club took their seats; and that
evening, it may be said, there were plenty on the ramparts. The
president was sufficiently known for all to be assured that he would not
have called together his colleagues without a very great motive.

Impey Barbicane was a man of forty, calm, cold, austere, of a singularly
serious and concentrated mind, as exact as a chronometer, of an
imperturbable temperament and immovable character; not very chivalrous,
yet adventurous, and always bringing practical ideas to bear on the
wildest enterprises; an essential New-Englander, a Northern colonist,
the descendant of those Roundheads so fatal to the Stuarts, and the
implacable enemy of the Southern gentlemen, the ancient cavaliers of the
mother country--in a word, a Yankee cast in a single mould.

Barbicane had made a great fortune as a timber-merchant; named director
of artillery during the war, he showed himself fertile in inventions;
enterprising in his ideas, he contributed powerfully to the progress of
ballistics, gave an immense impetus to experimental researches.

He was a person of average height, having, by a rare exception in the
Gun Club, all his limbs intact. His strongly-marked features seemed to
be drawn by square and rule, and if it be true that in order to guess
the instincts of a man one must look at his profile, Barbicane seen
thus offered the most certain indications of energy, audacity, and

At that moment he remained motionless in his chair, mute, absorbed, with
an inward look sheltered under his tall hat, a cylinder of black silk,
which seems screwed down upon the skull of American men.

His colleagues talked noisily around him without disturbing him; they
questioned one another, launched into the field of suppositions,
examined their president, and tried, but in vain, to make out the _x_ of
his imperturbable physiognomy.

Just as eight o'clock struck from the fulminating clock of the large
hall, Barbicane, as if moved by a spring, jumped up; a general silence
ensued, and the orator, in a slightly emphatic tone, spoke as follows:--

"Brave colleagues,--It is some time since an unfruitful peace plunged
the members of the Gun Club into deplorable inactivity. After a period
of some years, so full of incidents, we have been obliged to abandon our
works and stop short on the road of progress. I do not fear to proclaim
aloud that any war which would put arms in our hands again would be

"Yes, war!" cried impetuous J.T. Maston.

"Hear, hear!" was heard on every side.

"But war," said Barbicane, "war is impossible under actual
circumstances, and, whatever my honourable interrupter may hope, long
years will elapse before our cannons thunder on a field of battle. We
must, therefore, make up our minds to it, and seek in another order of
ideas food for the activity by which we are devoured."

The assembly felt that its president was coming to the delicate point;
it redoubled its attention.

"A few months ago, my brave colleagues," continued Barbicane, "I asked
myself if, whilst still remaining in our speciality, we could not
undertake some grand experiment worthy of the nineteenth century, and if
the progress of ballistics would not allow us to execute it with
success. I have therefore sought, worked, calculated, and the conviction
has resulted from my studies that we must succeed in an enterprise that
would seem impracticable in any other country. This project, elaborated
at length, will form the subject of my communication; it is worthy of
you, worthy of the Gun Club's past history, and cannot fail to make a
noise in the world!"

"Much noise?" cried a passionate artilleryman.

"Much noise in the true sense of the word," answered Barbicane.

"Don't interrupt!" repeated several voices.

"I therefore beg of you, my brave colleagues," resumed the president,
"to grant me all your attention."

A shudder ran through the assembly. Barbicane, having with a rapid
gesture firmly fixed his hat on his head, continued his speech in a calm

"There is not one of you, brave colleagues, who has not seen the moon,
or, at least, heard of It. Do not be astonished if I wish to speak to
you about the Queen of Night. It is, perhaps, our lot to be the
Columbuses of this unknown world. Understand me, and second me as much
as you can, I will lead you to its conquest, and its name shall be
joined to those of the thirty-six States that form the grand country of
the Union!"

"Hurrah for the moon!" cried the Gun Club with one voice.

"The moon has been much studied," resumed Barbicane; "its mass, density,
weight, volume, constitution, movements, distance, the part it plays in
the solar world, are all perfectly determined; selenographic maps have
been drawn with a perfection that equals, if it does not surpass, those
of terrestrial maps; photography has given to our satellite proofs of
incomparable beauty--in a word, all that the sciences of mathematics,
astronomy, geology, and optics can teach is known about the moon; but
until now no direct communication with it has ever been established."

A violent movement of interest and surprise welcomed this sentence of
the orator.

"Allow me," he resumed, "to recall to you in few words how certain
ardent minds, embarked upon imaginary journeys, pretended to have
penetrated the secrets of our satellite. In the seventeenth century a
certain David Fabricius boasted of having seen the inhabitants of the
moon with his own eyes. In 1649 a Frenchman, Jean Baudoin, published his
_Journey to the Moon by Dominique Gonzales, Spanish Adventurer_. At the
same epoch Cyrano de Bergerac published the celebrated expedition that
had so much success in France. Later on, another Frenchman (that nation
took a great deal of notice of the moon), named Fontenelle, wrote his
_Plurality of Worlds_, a masterpiece of his time; but science in its
progress crushes even masterpieces! About 1835, a pamphlet, translated
from the _New York American_, related that Sir John Herschel, sent to
the Cape of Good Hope, there to make astronomical observations, had, by
means of a telescope, perfected by interior lighting, brought the moon
to within a distance of eighty yards. Then he distinctly perceived
caverns in which lived hippopotami, green mountains with golden borders,
sheep with ivory horns, white deer, and inhabitants with membraneous
wings like those of bats. This treatise, the work of an American named
Locke, had a very great success. But it was soon found out that it was a
scientific mystification, and Frenchmen were the first to laugh at it."

"Laugh at an American!" cried J.T. Maston; "but that's a _casus belli_!"

"Be comforted, my worthy friend; before Frenchmen laughed they were
completely taken in by our countryman. To terminate this rapid history,
I may add that a certain Hans Pfaal, of Rotterdam, went up in a balloon
filled with a gas made from azote, thirty-seven times lighter than
hydrogen, and reached the moon after a journey of nineteen days. This
journey, like the preceding attempts, was purely imaginary, but it was
the work of a popular American writer of a strange and contemplative
genius. I have named Edgar Poe!"

"Hurrah for Edgar Poe!" cried the assembly, electrified by the words of
the president.

"I have now come to an end of these attempts which I may call purely
literary, and quite insufficient to establish any serious communications
with the Queen of Night. However, I ought to add that some practical
minds tried to put themselves into serious communication with her. Some
years ago a German mathematician proposed to send a commission of
_savants_ to the steppes of Siberia. There, on the vast plains, immense
geometrical figures were to be traced by means of luminous reflectors;
amongst others, the square of the hypothenuse, vulgarly called the
'Ass's Bridge.' 'Any intelligent being,' said the mathematician, 'ought
to understand the scientific destination of that figure. The Selenites
(inhabitants of the moon), if they exist, will answer by a similar
figure, and, communication once established, it will be easy to create
an alphabet that will allow us to hold converse with the inhabitants of
the moon.' Thus spoke the German mathematician, but his project was not
put into execution, and until now no direct communication has existed
between the earth and her satellite. But it was reserved to the
practical genius of Americans to put itself into communication with the
sidereal world. The means of doing so are simple, easy, certain,
unfailing, and will make the subject of my proposition."

A hubbub and tempest of exclamations welcomed these words. There was not
one of the audience who was not dominated and carried away by the words
of the orator.

"Hear, hear! Silence!" was heard on all sides.

When the agitation was calmed down Barbicane resumed, in a graver tone,
his interrupted speech.

"You know," said he, "what progress the science of ballistics has made
during the last few years, and to what degree of perfection firearms
would have been brought if the war had gone on. You are not ignorant in
general that the power of resistance of cannons and the expansive force
of powder are unlimited. Well, starting from that principle, I asked
myself if, by means of sufficient apparatus, established under
determined conditions of resistance, it would not be possible to send a
cannon-ball to the moon!"

At these words an "Oh!" of stupefaction escaped from a thousand panting
breasts; then occurred a moment of silence, like the profound calm that
precedes thunder. In fact, the thunder came, but a thunder of applause,
cries, and clamour which made the meeting-hall shake again. The
president tried to speak; he could not. It was only at the end of ten
minutes that he succeeded in making himself heard.

"Let me finish," he resumed coldly. "I have looked at the question in
all its aspects, and from my indisputable calculations it results that
any projectile, hurled at an initial speed of twelve thousand yards a
second, and directed at the moon, must necessarily reach her. I have,
therefore, the honour of proposing to you, my worthy colleagues, the
attempting of this little experiment."



It is impossible to depict the effect produced by the last words of the
honourable president. What cries! what vociferations! What a succession
of groans, hurrahs, cheers, and all the onomatopoeia of which the
American language is so full. It was an indescribable hubbub and
disorder. Mouths, hands, and feet made as much noise as they could. All
the weapons in this artillery museum going off at once would not have
more violently agitated the waves of sound. That is not surprising;
there are cannoneers nearly as noisy as their cannons.

Barbicane remained calm amidst these enthusiastic clamours; perhaps he
again wished to address some words to his colleagues, for his gestures
asked for silence, and his fulminating bell exhausted itself in violent
detonations; it was not even heard. He was soon dragged from his chair,
carried in triumph, and from the hands of his faithful comrades he
passed into those of the no less excited crowd.

Nothing can astonish an American. It has often been repeated that the
word "impossible" is not French; the wrong dictionary must have been
taken by mistake. In America everything is easy, everything is simple,
and as to mechanical difficulties, they are dead before they are born.
Between the Barbicane project and its realisation not one true Yankee
would have allowed himself to see even the appearance of a difficulty.
As soon said as done.

The triumphant march of the president was prolonged during the evening.
A veritable torchlight procession--Irish, Germans, Frenchmen,
Scotchmen--all the heterogeneous individuals that compose the population
of Maryland--shouted in their maternal tongue, and the cheering was

Precisely as if she knew it was all about her, the moon shone out then
with serene magnificence, eclipsing other lights with her intense
irradiation. All the Yankees directed their eyes towards the shining
disc; some saluted her with their hands, others called her by the
sweetest names; between eight o'clock and midnight an optician in
Jones-Fall-street made a fortune by selling field-glasses. The Queen of
Night was looked at through them like a lady of high life. The Americans
acted in regard to her with the freedom of proprietors. It seemed as if
the blonde Phoebe belonged to these enterprising conquerors and already
formed part of the Union territory. And yet the only question was that
of sending a projectile--a rather brutal way of entering into
communication even with a satellite, but much in vogue amongst civilised

Midnight had just struck, and the enthusiasm did not diminish; it was
kept up in equal doses in all classes of the population; magistrates,
_savants_, merchants, tradesmen, street-porters, intelligent as well as
"green" men were moved even in their most delicate fibres. It was a
national enterprise; the high town, low town, the quays bathed by the
waters of the Patapsco, the ships, imprisoned in their docks, overflowed
with crowds intoxicated with joy, gin, and whisky; everybody talked,
argued, perorated, disputed, approved, and applauded, from the gentleman
comfortably stretched on the bar-room couch before his glass of
"sherry-cobbler" to the waterman who got drunk upon "knock-me-down" in
the dark taverns of Fell's Point.

However, about 2 a.m. the emotion became calmer. President Barbicane
succeeded in getting home almost knocked to pieces. A Hercules could not
have resisted such enthusiasm. The crowd gradually abandoned the squares
and streets. The four railroads of Ohio, Susquehanna, Philadelphia, and
Washington, which converge at Baltimore, took the heterogeneous
population to the four corners of the United States, and the town
reposed in a relative tranquillity.

It would be an error to believe that during this memorable evening
Baltimore alone was agitated. The large towns of the Union, New York,
Boston, Albany, Washington, Richmond, New Orleans, Charlestown, La
Mobile of Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Florida, all shared in the
delirium. The thirty thousand correspondents of the Gun Club were
acquainted with their president's letter, and awaited with equal
impatience the famous communication of the 5th of October. The same
evening as the orator uttered his speech it ran along the telegraph
wires, across the states of the Union, with a speed of 348,447 miles a
second. It may, therefore, be said with absolute certainty that at the
same moment the United States of America, ten times as large as France,
cheered with a single voice, and twenty-five millions of hearts, swollen
with pride, beat with the same pulsation.

The next day five hundred daily, weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly
newspapers took up the question; they examined it under its different
aspects--physical, meteorological, economical, or moral, from a
political or social point of view. They debated whether the moon was a
finished world, or if she was not still undergoing transformation. Did
she resemble the earth in the time when the atmosphere did not yet
exist? What kind of spectacle would her hidden hemisphere present to our
terrestrial spheroid? Granting that the question at present was simply
about sending a projectile to the Queen of Night, every one saw in that
the starting-point of a series of experiments; all hoped that one day
America would penetrate the last secrets of the mysterious orb, and some
even seemed to fear that her conquest would disturb the balance of power
in Europe.

The project once under discussion, not one of the papers suggested a
doubt of its realisation; all the papers, treatises, bulletins, and
magazines published by scientific, literary, or religious societies
enlarged upon its advantages, and the "Natural History Society" of
Boston, the "Science and Art Society" of Albany, the "Geographical and
Statistical Society" of New York, the "American Philosophical Society"
of Philadelphia, and the "Smithsonian Institution" of Washington sent in
a thousand letters their congratulations to the Gun Club, with immediate
offers of service and money.

It may be said that no proposition ever had so many adherents; there was
no question of hesitations, doubts, or anxieties. As to the jokes,
caricatures, and comic songs that would have welcomed in Europe, and,
above all, in France, the idea of sending a projectile to the moon, they
would have been turned against their author; all the "life-preservers"
in the world would have been powerless to guarantee him against the
general indignation. There are things that are not to be laughed at in
the New World.

Impey Barbicane became from that day one of the greatest citizens of the
United States, something like a Washington of science, and one fact
amongst several will serve to show the sudden homage which was paid by a
nation to one man.

Some days after the famous meeting of the Gun Club the manager of an
English company announced at the Baltimore Theatre a representation of
_Much Ado About Nothing_, but the population of the town, seeing in the
title a damaging allusion to the projects of President Barbicane,
invaded the theatre, broke the seats, and forced the unfortunate manager
to change the play. Like a sensible man, the manager, bowing to public
opinion, replaced the offending comedy by _As You Like It_, and for
several weeks he had fabulous houses.



In the meantime Barbicane did not lose an instant amidst the enthusiasm
of which he was the object. His first care was to call together his
colleagues in the board-room of the Gun Club. There, after a debate,
they agreed to consult astronomers about the astronomical part of their
enterprise. Their answer once known, they would then discuss the
mechanical means, and nothing would be neglected to assure the success
of their great experiment.

A note in precise terms, containing special questions, was drawn up and
addressed to the observatory of Cambridge in Massachusetts. This town,
where the first University of the United States was founded, is justly
celebrated for its astronomical staff. There are assembled the greatest
men of science; there is the powerful telescope which enabled Bond to
resolve the nebula of Andromeda and Clarke to discover the satellite of
Sirius. This celebrated institution was, therefore, worthy in every way
of the confidence of the Gun Club.

After two days the answer, impatiently awaited, reached the hands of
President Barbicane.

It ran as follows:--

"_The Director of the Cambridge Observatory to the President of the Gun
Club at Baltimore_.

"On the receipt of your favour of the 6th inst., addressed to the
Observatory of Cambridge in the name of the members of the Baltimore
Gun Club, we immediately called a meeting of our staff, who have deemed
it expedient to answer as follows:--

"The questions proposed to it were these:--

"'1. Is it possible to send a projectile to the moon?

"'2. What is the exact distance that separates the earth and her

"'3. What would be the duration of the projectile's transit to which a
sufficient initial speed had been given, and consequently at what moment
should it be hurled so as to reach the moon at a particular point?

"'4. At what moment would the moon present the most favourable position
for being reached by the projectile?

"'5. What point in the heavens ought the cannon, destined to hurl the
projectile, be aimed at?

"'6. What place in the heavens will the moon occupy at the moment when
the projectile will start?'

"Regarding question No. 1, 'Is it possible to send a projectile to the

"Yes, it is possible to send a projectile to the moon if it is given an
initial velocity of 1,200 yards a second. Calculations prove that this
speed is sufficient. In proportion to the distance from the earth the
force of gravitation diminishes in an inverse ratio to the square of the
distance--that is to say, that for a distance three times greater that
force is nine times less. In consequence, the weight of the projectile
will decrease rapidly, and will end by being completely annulled at the
moment when the attraction of the moon will be equal to that of the
earth--that is to say, at the 47/52 of the distance. At that moment the
projectile will have no weight at all, and if it clears that point it
will fall on to the moon only by the effect of lunar gravitation. The
theoretic possibility of the experiment is, therefore, quite
demonstrated; as to its success, that depends solely in the power of the
engine employed.

"Regarding question No. 2, 'What is the exact distance that separates
the earth from her satellite?'

"The moon does not describe a circle round the earth, but an ellipse, of
which our earth occupies one of the foci; the consequence is, therefore,
that at certain times it approaches nearer to, and at others recedes
farther from, the earth, or, in astronomical language, it has its apogee
and its perigee. At its apogee the moon is at 247,552 miles from the
earth, and at its perigee at 218,657 miles only, which makes a
difference of 28,895, or more than a ninth of the distance. The perigee
distance is, therefore, the one that should give us the basis of all

"Regarding question No. 3, 'What would be the duration of the
projectile's transit to which a sufficient initial speed has been given,
and consequently at what moment should it be hurled so as to reach the
moon at a particular point?'

"If the projectile kept indefinitely the initial speed of 12,000 yards a
second, it would only take about nine hours to reach its destination;
but as that initial velocity will go on decreasing, it will happen,
everything calculated upon, that the projectile will take 300,000
seconds, or 83 hours and 20 minutes, to reach the point where the
terrestrial and lunar gravitations are equal, and from that point it
will fall upon the moon in 50,000 seconds, or 13 hours, 53 minutes, and
20 seconds. It must, therefore, be hurled 97 hours, 13 minutes, and 20
seconds before the arrival of the moon at the point aimed at.

"Regarding question No. 4, 'At what moment would the moon present the
most favourable position for being reached by the projectile?'

"According to what has been said above the epoch of the moon's perigee
must first be chosen, and at the moment when she will be crossing her
zenith, which will still further diminish the entire distance by a
length equal to the terrestrial radius--i.e., 3,919 miles; consequently,
the passage to be accomplished will be 214,976 miles. But the moon is
not always at her zenith when she reaches her perigee, which is once a
month. She is only under the two conditions simultaneously at long
intervals of time. This coincidence of perigee and zenith must be waited
for. It happens fortunately that on December 4th of next year the moon
will offer these two conditions; at midnight she will be at her perigee
and her zenith--that is to say, at her shortest distance from the earth
and at her zenith at the same time.

"Regarding question No. 5, 'At what point in the heavens ought the
cannon destined to hurl the projectile be aimed?'

"The preceding observations being admitted, the cannon ought to be aimed
at the zenith of the place (the zenith is the spot situated vertically
above the head of a spectator), so that its range will be perpendicular
to the plane of the horizon, and the projectile will pass the soonest
beyond the range of terrestrial gravitation. But for the moon to reach
the zenith of a place that place must not exceed in latitude the
declination of the luminary--in other words, it must be comprised
between 0 deg. and 28 deg. of north or south latitude. In any other place the
range must necessarily be oblique, which would seriously affect the
success of the experiment.

"Regarding question No. 6, 'What place will the moon occupy In the
heavens at the moment of the projectile's departure?'

"At the moment when the projectile is hurled into space, the moon, which
travels forward 13 deg. 10' 35" each day, will be four times as distant from
her zenith point--i.e., by 52 deg. 42' 20", a space which corresponds to the
distance she will travel during the transit of the projectile. But as
the deviation which the rotatory movement of the earth will impart to
the shock must also be taken into account, and as the projectile cannot
reach the moon until after a deviation equal to sixteen radii of the
earth, which, calculated upon the moon's orbit, is equal to about 11 deg.,
it is necessary to add these 11 deg. to those caused by the
already-mentioned delay of the moon, or, in round numbers, 64 deg.. Thus, at
the moment of firing, the visual radius applied to the moon will
describe with the vertical line of the place an angle of 64 deg..

"Such are the answers to the questions proposed to the Observatory of
Cambridge by the members of the Gun Club.

"To sum up--

"1st. The cannon must be placed in a country situated between 0 deg. and 28 deg.
of north or south latitude.

"2nd. It must be aimed at the zenith of the place.

"3rd. The projectile must have an initial speed of 12,000 yards a

"4th. It must be hurled on December 1st of next year, at 10hrs. 46mins.
40secs. p.m.

"5th. It will meet the moon four days after its departure on December
4th, at midnight precisely, at the moment she arrives at her zenith.

"The members of the Gun Club ought, therefore, at once to commence the
labour necessitated by such an enterprise, and be ready to put them into
execution at the moment fixed upon, for they will not find the moon in
the same conditions of perigee and zenith till eighteen years and eleven
days later.

"The staff of the Observatory of Cambridge puts itself entirely at their
disposition for questions of theoretic astronomy, and begs to join its
congratulations to those of the whole of America.

"On behalf of the staff,


"_Director of the Observatory of Cambridge_."



A spectator endowed with infinite power of sight, and placed at the
unknown centre round which gravitates the universe, would have seen
myriads of atoms filling all space during the chaotic epoch of creation.
But by degrees, as centuries went on, a change took place; a law of
gravitation manifested itself which the wandering atoms obeyed; these
atoms, combined chemically according to their affinities, formed
themselves into molecules, and made those nebulous masses with which the
depths of the heavens are strewed.

These masses were immediately animated by a movement of rotation round
their central point. This centre, made of vague molecules, began to turn
on itself whilst progressively condensing; then, following the immutable
laws of mechanics, in proportion as its volume became diminished by
condensation its movement of rotation was accelerated, and these two
effects persisting, there resulted a principal planet, the centre of the
nebulous mass.

By watching attentively the spectator would then have seen other
molecules in the mass behave like the central planet, and condense in
the same manner by a movement of progressively-accelerated rotation, and
gravitate round it under the form of innumerable stars. The nebulae, of
which astronomers count nearly 5,000 at present, were formed.

Amongst these 5,000 nebulae there is one that men have called the Milky
Way, and which contains eighteen millions of stars, each of which has
become the centre of a solar world.

If the spectator had then specially examined amongst these eighteen
millions of stars one of the most modest and least brilliant, a star of
the fourth order, the one that proudly named itself the sun, all the
phenomena to which the formation of the universe is due would have
successively taken place under his eyes.

In fact, he would have perceived this sun still in its gaseous state,
and composed of mobile molecules; he would have perceived it turning on
its own axis to finish its work of concentration. This movement,
faithful to the laws of mechanics, would have been accelerated by the
diminution of volume, and a time would have come when the centrifugal
force would have overpowered the centripetal, which causes the molecules
all to tend towards the centre.

Then another phenomenon would have passed before the eyes of the
spectator, and the molecules situated in the plane of the equator would
have formed several concentric rings like that of Saturn round the sun.
In their turn these rings of cosmic matter, seized with a movement of
rotation round the central mass, would have been broken up into
secondary nebulae--that is to say, into planets.

If the spectator had then concentrated all his attention on these
planets he would have seen them behave exactly like the sun and give
birth to one or more cosmic rings, origin of those secondary bodies
which we call satellites.

Thus in going up from the atom to the molecule, from the molecule to the
nebulae, and from the nebulae to the principal star, from the principal
star to the sun, from the sun to the planet, and from the planet to the
satellite, we have the whole series of transformations undergone by the
celestial powers from the first days of the universe.

The sun seems lost amidst the immensities of the stellar universe, and
yet it is related, by actual theories of science, to the nebula of the
Milky Way. Centre of a world, and small as it appears amidst the
ethereal regions, it is still enormous, for its size is 1,400,000 times
that of the earth. Around it gravitate eight planets, struck off from
its own mass in the first days of creation. These are, in proceeding
from the nearest to the most distant, Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars,
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Between Mars and Jupiter circulate
regularly other smaller bodies, the wandering _debris_, perhaps, of a
star broken up into thousands of pieces, of which the telescope has
discovered eighty-two at present. Some of these asteroids are so small
that they could be walked round in a single day by going at a gymnastic

Of these attendant bodies which the sun maintains in their elliptical
orbit by the great law of gravitation, some possess satellites of their
own. Uranus has eight, Saturn eight, Jupiter four, Neptune three
perhaps, and the Earth one; this latter, one of the least important of
the solar world, is called the Moon, and it is that one that the
enterprising genius of the Americans means to conquer.

The Queen of Night, from her relative proximity and the spectacle
rapidly renewed of her different phases, at first divided the attention
of the inhabitants of the earth with the sun; but the sun tires the
eyesight, and the splendour of its light forces its admirers to lower
their eyes.

The blonde Phoebe, more humane, graciously allows herself to be seen in
her modest grace; she is gentle to the eye, not ambitious, and yet she
sometimes eclipses her brother the radiant Apollo, without ever being
eclipsed by him. The Mahommedans understood what gratitude they owed to
this faithful friend of the earth, and they ruled their months at 29-1/2
days on her revolution.

The first people of the world dedicated particular worship to this
chaste goddess. The Egyptians called her Isis, the Phoenicians Astarte,
the Greeks Phoebe, daughter of Jupiter and Latona, and they explained
her eclipses by the mysterious visits of Diana and the handsome
Endymion. The mythological legend relates that the Nemean lion traversed
the country of the moon before its apparition upon earth, and the poet
Agesianax, quoted by Plutarch, celebrated in his sweet lines its soft
eyes, charming nose, and admirable mouth, formed by the luminous parts
of the adorable Selene.

But though the ancients understood the character, temperament, and, in a
word, moral qualities of the moon from a mythological point of view, the
most learned amongst them remained very ignorant of selenography.

Several astronomers, however, of ancient times discovered certain
particulars now confirmed by science. Though the Arcadians pretended
they had inhabited the earth at an epoch before the moon existed, though
Simplicius believed her immovable and fastened to the crystal vault,
though Tacitus looked upon her as a fragment broken off from the solar
orbit, and Clearch, the disciple of Aristotle, made of her a polished
mirror upon which were reflected the images of the ocean--though, in
short, others only saw in her a mass of vapours exhaled by the earth, or
a globe half fire and half ice that turned on itself, other _savants_,
by means of wise observations and without optical instruments, suspected
most of the laws that govern the Queen of Night.

Thus Thales of Miletus, B.C. 460, gave out the opinion that the moon was
lighted up by the sun. Aristarchus of Samos gave the right explanation
of her phases. Cleomenus taught that she shone by reflected light.
Berose the Chaldean discovered that the duration of her movement of
rotation was equal to that of her movement of revolution, and he thus
explained why the moon always presented the same side. Lastly,
Hipparchus, 200 years before the Christian era, discovered some
inequalities in the apparent movements of the earth's satellite.

These different observations were afterwards confirmed, and other
astronomers profited by them. Ptolemy in the second century, and the
Arabian Aboul Wefa in the tenth, completed the remarks of Hipparchus on
the inequalities that the moon undergoes whilst following the undulating
line of its orbit under the action of the sun. Then Copernicus, in the
fifteenth century, and Tycho Brahe, in the sixteenth, completely exposed
the system of the world and the part that the moon plays amongst the
celestial bodies.

At that epoch her movements were pretty well known, but very little of
her physical constitution was known. It was then that Galileo explained
the phenomena of light produced in certain phases by the existence of
mountains, to which he gave an average height of 27,000 feet.

After him, Hevelius, an astronomer of Dantzig, lowered the highest
altitudes to 15,000 feet; but his contemporary, Riccioli, brought them
up again to 21,000 feet.

Herschel, at the end of the eighteenth century, armed with a powerful
telescope, considerably reduced the preceding measurements. He gave a
height of 11,400 feet to the highest mountains, and brought down the
average of different heights to little more than 2,400 feet. But
Herschel was mistaken too, and the observations of Schroeter, Louville,
Halley, Nasmyth, Bianchini, Pastorff, Lohrman, Gruithuysen, and
especially the patient studies of MM. Boeer and Moedler, were necessary
to definitely resolve the question. Thanks to these _savants_, the
elevation of the mountains of the moon is now perfectly known. Boeer and
Moedler measured 1,905 different elevations, of which six exceed 15,000
feet and twenty-two exceed 14,400 feet. Their highest summit towers to a
height of 22,606 feet above the surface of the lunar disc.

At the same time the survey of the moon was being completed; she
appeared riddled with craters, and her essentially volcanic nature was
affirmed by each observation. From the absence of refraction in the rays
of the planets occulted by her it is concluded that she can have no
atmosphere. This absence of air entails absence of water; it therefore
became manifest that the Selenites, in order to live under such
conditions, must have a special organisation, and differ singularly from
the inhabitants of the earth.

Lastly, thanks to new methods, more perfected instruments searched the
moon without intermission, leaving not a point of her surface
unexplored, and yet her diameter measures 2,150 miles; her surface is
one-thirteenth of the surface of the globe, and her volume
one-forty-ninth of the volume of the terrestrial spheroid; but none of
her secrets could escape the astronomers' eyes, and these clever
_savants_ carried their wonderful observations still further.

Thus they remarked that when the moon was at her full the disc appeared
in certain places striped with white lines, and during her phases
striped with black lines. By prosecuting the study of these with greater
precision they succeeded in making out the exact nature of these lines.
They are long and narrow furrows sunk between parallel ridges, bordering
generally upon the edges of the craters; their length varied from ten to
one hundred miles, and their width was about 1,600 yards. Astronomers
called them furrows, and that was all they could do; they could not
ascertain whether they were the dried-up beds of ancient rivers or not.
The Americans hope, some day or other, to determine this geological
question. They also undertake to reconnoitre the series of parallel
ramparts discovered on the surface of the moon by Gruithuysen, a learned
professor of Munich, who considered them to be a system of elevated
fortifications raised by Selenite engineers. These two still obscure
points, and doubtless many others, can only be definitely settled by
direct communication with the moon.

As to the intensity of her light there is nothing more to be learnt; it
is 300,000 times weaker than that of the sun, and its heat has no
appreciable action upon thermometers; as to the phenomenon known as the
"ashy light," it is naturally explained by the effect of the sun's rays
transmitted from the earth to the moon, and which seem to complete the
lunar disc when it presents a crescent form during its first and last

Such was the state of knowledge acquired respecting the earth's
satellite which the Gun Club undertook to perfect under all its aspects,
cosmographical, geographical, geological, political, and moral.



The immediate effect of Barbicane's proposition was that of bringing out
all astronomical facts relative to the Queen of Night. Everybody began
to study her assiduously. It seemed as if the moon had appeared on the
horizon for the first time, and that no one had ever seen her in the sky
before. She became the fashion; she was the lion of the day, without
appearing less modest on that account, and took her place amongst the
"stars" without being any the prouder. The newspapers revived old
anecdotes in which this "Sun of the wolves" played a part; they recalled
the influence which the ignorance of past ages had ascribed to her; they
sang about her in every tone; a little more and they would have quoted
her witty sayings; the whole of America was filled with selenomania.

The scientific journals treated the question which touched upon the
enterprise of the Gun Club more specially; they published the letter
from the Observatory of Cambridge, they commented upon it and approved
of it without reserve.

In short, even the most ignorant Yankee was no longer allowed to be
ignorant of a single fact relative to his satellite, nor, to the oldest
women amongst them, to have any superstitions about her left. Science
flooded them; it penetrated into their eyes and ears; it was impossible
to be an ass--in astronomy.

Until then many people did not know how the distance between the earth
and the moon had been calculated. This fact was taken advantage of to
explain to them that it was done by measuring the parallax of the moon.
If the word "parallax" seemed new to them, they were told it was the
angle formed by two straight lines drawn from either extremity of the
earth's radius to the moon. If they were in doubt about the perfection
of this method, it was immediately proved to them that not only was the
mean distance 234,347 miles, but that astronomers were right to within
seventy miles.

To those who were not familiar with the movements of the moon, the
newspapers demonstrated daily that she possesses two distinct movements,
the first being that of rotation upon her axis, the second that of
revolution round the earth, accomplishing both in the same time--that is
to say, in 27-1/3 days.

The movement of rotation is the one that causes night and day on the
surface of the moon, only there is but one day and one night in a lunar
month, and they each last 354-1/3 hours. But, happily, the face, turned
towards the terrestrial globe, is lighted by it with an intensity equal
to the light of fourteen moons. As to the other face, the one always
invisible, it has naturally 354 hours of absolute night, tempered only
by "the pale light that falls from the stars." This phenomenon is due
solely to the peculiarity that the movements of rotation and revolution
are accomplished in rigorously equal periods, a phenomenon which,
according to Cassini and Herschel, is common to the satellites of
Jupiter, and, very probably to the other satellites.

Some well-disposed but rather unyielding minds did not quite understand
at first how, if the moon invariably shows the same face to the earth
during her revolution, she describes one turn round herself in the same
period of time. To such it was answered--"Go into your dining-room, and
turn round the table so as always to keep your face towards the centre;
when your circular walk is ended you will have described one circle
round yourselves, since your eye will have successively traversed every
point of the room. Well, then, the room is the heavens, the table is the
earth, and you are the moon!"

And they go away delighted with the comparison.

Thus, then, the moon always presents the same face to the earth; still,
to be quite exact, it should be added that in consequence of certain
fluctuations from north to south and from west to east, called
libration, she shows rather more than the half of her disc, about 0.57.

When the ignoramuses knew as much as the director of the Cambridge
Observatory about the moon's movement of rotation they began to make
themselves uneasy about her movement of revolution round the earth, and
twenty scientific reviews quickly gave them the information they wanted.
They then learnt that the firmament, with its infinite stars, may be
looked upon as a vast dial upon which the moon moves, indicating the
time to all the inhabitants of the earth; that it is in this movement
that the Queen of Night shows herself in her different phases, that she
is full when she is in opposition with the sun--that is to say, when the
three bodies are on a line with each other, the earth being in the
centre; that the moon is new when she is in conjunction with the
sun--that is to say, when she is between the sun and the earth; lastly,
that the moon is in her first or last quarter when she makes, with the
sun and the earth, a right angle of which she occupies the apex.

Some perspicacious Yankees inferred in consequence that eclipses could
only take place at the periods of conjunction or opposition, and their
reasoning was just. In conjunction the moon can eclipse the sun, whilst
in opposition it is the earth that can eclipse him in her turn; and the
reason these eclipses do not happen twice in a lunar month is because
the plane upon which the moon moves is elliptical like that of the

As to the height which the Queen of Night can attain above the horizon,
the letter from the Observatory of Cambridge contained all that can be
said about it. Every one knew that this height varies according to the
latitude of the place where the observation is taken. But the only zones
of the globe where the moon reaches her zenith--that is to say, where
she is directly above the heads of the spectators--are necessarily
comprised between the 28th parallels and the equator. Hence the
important recommendation given to attempt the experiment upon some point
in this part of the globe, in order that the projectile may be hurled
perpendicularly, and may thus more quickly escape the attraction of
gravitation. This was a condition essential to the success of the
enterprise, and public opinion was much exercised thereupon.

As to the line followed by the moon in her revolution round the earth,
the Observatory of Cambridge had demonstrated to the most ignorant that
it is an ellipse of which the earth occupies one of the foci. These
elliptical orbits are common to all the planets as well as to all the
satellites, and rational mechanism rigorously proves that it could not
be otherwise. It was clearly understood that when at her apogee the moon
was farthest from the earth, and when at her perigee she was nearest to
our planet.

This, therefore, was what every American knew whether he wished to or
no, and what no one could decently be ignorant of. But if these true
principles rapidly made their way, certain illusive fears and many
errors were with difficulty cleared away.

Some worthy people maintained, for instance, that the moon was an
ancient comet, which, whilst travelling along its elongated orbit round
the sun, passed near to the earth, and was retained in her circle of
attraction. The drawing-room astronomers pretended to explain thus the
burnt aspect of the moon, a misfortune of which they accused the sun.
Only when they were told to notice that comets have an atmosphere, and
that the moon has little or none, they did not know what to answer.

Others belonging to the class of "Shakers" manifested certain fears
about the moon; they had heard that since the observations made in the
times of the Caliphs her movement of revolution had accelerated in a
certain proportion; they thence very logically concluded that an
acceleration of movement must correspond to a diminution in the distance
between the two bodies, and that this double effect going on infinitely
the moon would one day end by falling into the earth. However, they were
obliged to reassure themselves and cease to fear for future generations
when they were told that according to the calculations of Laplace, an
illustrious French mathematician, this acceleration of movement was
restricted within very narrow limits, and that a proportional diminution
will follow it. Thus the equilibrium of the solar world cannot be
disturbed in future centuries.

Lastly there was the superstitious class of ignoramuses to be dealt
with; these are not content with being ignorant; they know what does not
exist, and about the moon they know a great deal. Some of them
considered her disc to be a polished mirror by means of which people
might see themselves from different points on the earth, and communicate
their thoughts to one another. Others pretended that out of 1,000 new
moons 950 had brought some notable change, such as cataclysms,
revolutions, earthquakes, deluges, &c.; they therefore believed in the
mysterious influence of the Queen of Night on human destinies; they
think that every Selenite is connected by some sympathetic tie with each
inhabitant of the earth; they pretend, with Dr. Mead, that she entirely
governs the vital system--that boys are born during the new moon and
girls during her last quarter, &c., &c. But at last it became necessary
to give up these vulgar errors, to come back to truth; and if the moon,
stripped of her influence, lost her prestige in the minds of courtesans
of every power, if some turned their backs on her, the immense majority
were in her favour. As to the Yankees, they had no other ambition than
that of taking possession of this new continent of the sky, and to plant
upon its highest summit the star-spangled banner of the United States of



The Cambridge Observatory had, in its memorable letter of October 7th,
treated the question from an astronomical point of view--the mechanical
point had still to be treated. It was then that the practical
difficulties would have seemed insurmountable to any other country but
America; but there they were looked upon as play.

President Barbicane had, without losing any time, nominated a working
committee in the heart of the Gun Club. This committee was in three
sittings to elucidate the three great questions of the cannon, the
projectile, and the powder. It was composed of four members very learned
upon these matters. Barbicane had the casting vote, and with him were
associated General Morgan, Major Elphinstone, and, lastly, the
inevitable J.T. Maston, to whom were confided the functions of

On the 8th of October the committee met at President Barbicane's house,
No. 3, Republican-street; as it was important that the stomach should
not trouble so important a debate, the four members of the Gun Club took
their seats at a table covered with sandwiches and teapots. J.T. Maston
immediately screwed his pen on to his steel hook and the business began.

Barbicane opened the meeting as follows:--

"Dear colleagues," said he, "we have to solve one of the more important
problems in ballistics--that greatest of sciences which treats of the
movement of projectiles--that is to say, of bodies hurled into space by
some power of impulsion and then left to themselves."

"Oh, ballistics, ballistics!" cried J.T. Maston in a voice of emotion.

"Perhaps," continued Barbicane, "the most logical thing would be to
consecrate this first meeting to discussing the engine."

"Certainly," answered General Morgan.

"Nevertheless," continued Barbicane, "after mature deliberation, it
seems to me that the question of the projectile ought to precede that of
the cannon, and that the dimensions of the latter ought to depend upon
the dimensions of the former."

J.T. Maston here interrupted the president, and was heard with the
attention which his magnificent past career deserved.

"My dear friends," said he in an inspired tone, "our president is right
to give the question of the projectile the precedence of every other;
the cannon-ball we mean to hurl at the moon will be our messenger, our
ambassador, and I ask your permission to regard it from an entirely
moral point of view."

This new way of looking at a projectile excited the curiosity of the
members of the committee; they therefore listened attentively to the
words of J.T. Maston.

"My dear colleagues," he continued, "I will be brief. I will lay aside
the material projectile--the projectile that kills--in order to take up
the mathematical projectile--the moral projectile. A cannon-ball is to
me the most brilliant manifestation of human power, and by creating it
man has approached nearest to the Creator!"

"Hear, hear!" said Major Elphinstone.

"In fact," cried the orator, "if God has made the stars and the planets,
man has made the cannon-ball--that criterion of terrestrial speed--that
reduction of bodies wandering in space which are really nothing but
projectiles. Let Providence claim the speed of electricity, light, the
stars, comets, planets, satellites, sound, and wind! But ours is the
speed of the cannon-ball--a hundred times greater than that of trains
and the fastest horses!"

J.T. Maston was inspired; his accents became quite lyrical as he chanted
the hymn consecrated to the projectile.

"Would you like figures?" continued he; "here are eloquent ones. Take
the simple 24 pounder; though it moves 80,000 times slower than
electricity, 64,000 times slower than light, 76 times slower than the
earth in her movement of translation round the sun, yet when it leaves
the cannon it goes quicker than sound; it goes at the rate of 14 miles a
minute, 840 miles an hour, 20,100 miles a day--that is to say, at the
speed of the points of the equator in the globe's movement of rotation,
7,336,500 miles a year. It would therefore take 11 days to get to the
moon, 12 years to get to the sun, 360 years to reach Neptune, at the
limits of the solar world. That is what this modest cannon-ball, the
work of our hands, can do! What will it be, therefore, when, with twenty
times that speed, we shall hurl it with a rapidity of seven miles a
second? Ah! splendid shot! superb projectile! I like to think you will
be received up there with the honours due to a terrestrial ambassador!"

Cheers greeted this brilliant peroration, and J.T. Maston, overcome with
emotion, sat down amidst the felicitations of his colleagues.

"And now," said Barbicane, "that we have given some time to poetry, let
us proceed to facts."

"We are ready," answered the members of the committee as they each
demolished half-a-dozen sandwiches.

"You know what problem it is we have to solve," continued the president;
"it is that of endowing a projectile with a speed of 12,000 yards per
second. I have every reason to believe that we shall succeed, but at
present let us see what speeds we have already obtained; General Morgan
can edify us upon that subject."

"So much the more easily," answered the general, "because during the war
I was a member of the Experiment Commission. The 100-pound cannon of
Dahlgren, with a range of 5,000 yards, gave their projectiles an initial
speed of 500 yards a second."

"Yes; and the Rodman Columbiad?" (the Americans gave the name of
"Columbiad" to their enormous engines of destruction) asked the

"The Rodman Columbiad, tried at Fort Hamilton, near New York, hurled a
projectile, weighing half a ton, a distance of six miles, with a speed
of 800 yards a second, a result which neither Armstrong nor Palliser has
obtained in England."

"Englishmen are nowhere!" said J.T. Maston, pointing his formidable
steel hook eastward.

"Then," resumed Barbicane, "a speed of 800 yards is the maximum obtained
at present."

"Yes," answered Morgan.

"I might add, however," replied J.T. Maston, "that if my mortar had not
been blown up--"

"Yes, but it was blown up," replied Barbicane with a benevolent gesture.
"We must take the speed of 800 yards for a starting point. We must keep
till another meeting the discussion of the means used to produce this
speed; allow me to call your attention to the dimensions which our
projectile must have. Of course it must be something very different to
one of half a ton weight."

"Why?" asked the major.

"Because," quickly answered J.T. Maston, "it must be large enough to
attract the attention of the inhabitants of the moon, supposing there
are any."

"Yes," answered Barbicane, "and for another reason still more

"What do you mean, Barbicane?" asked the major.

"I mean that it is not enough to send up a projectile and then to think
no more about it; we must follow it in its transit."

"What?" said the general, slightly surprised at the proposition.

"Certainly," replied Barbicane, like a man who knew what he was saying,
"or our experiment will be without result."

"But then," replied the major, "you will have to give the projectile
enormous dimensions."

"No. Please grant me your attention. You know that optical instruments
have acquired great perfection; certain telescopes increase objects six
thousand, and bring the moon to within a distance of forty miles. Now at
that distance objects sixty feet square are perfectly visible. The power
of penetration of the telescope has not been increased, because that
power is only exercised to the detriment of their clearness, and the
moon, which is only a reflecting mirror, does not send a light intense
enough for the telescopes to increase objects beyond that limit."

"Very well, then, what do you mean to do?" asked the general. "Do you
intend giving a diameter of sixty feet to your projectile?"


"You are not going to take upon yourself the task of making the moon
more luminous?"

"I am, though."

"That's rather strong!" exclaimed Maston.

"Yes, but simple," answered Barbicane. "If I succeed in lessening the
density of the atmosphere which the moon's light traverses, shall I not
render that light more intense?"


"In order to obtain that result I shall only have to establish my
telescope upon some high mountain. We can do that."

"I give in," answered the major; "you have such a way of simplifying
things! What enlargement do you hope to obtain thus?"

"One of 48,000 times, which will bring the moon within five miles only,
and objects will only need a diameter of nine feet."

"Perfect!" exclaimed J.T. Maston; "then our projectile will have a
diameter of nine feet?"


"Allow me to inform you, however," returned Major Elphinstone, "that its
weight will still be--"

"Oh, major!" answered Barbicane, "before discussing its weight allow me
to tell you that our forefathers did marvels in that way. Far be it from
me to pretend that ballistics have not progressed, but it is well to
know that in the Middle Ages surprising results were obtained, I dare
affirm, even more surprising than ours."

"Justify your statement," exclaimed J.T. Maston.

"Nothing is easier," answered Barbicane; "I can give you some examples.
At the siege of Constantinople by Mahomet II., in 1453, they hurled
stone bullets that weighed 1,900 lbs.; at Malta, in the time of its
knights, a certain cannon of Fort Saint Elme hurled projectiles weighing
2,500 lbs. According to a French historian, under Louis XI. a mortar
hurled a bomb of 500 lbs. only; but that bomb, fired at the Bastille, a
place where mad men imprisoned wise ones, fell at Charenton, where wise
men imprison mad ones."

"Very well," said J.T. Maston.

"Since, what have we seen, after all? The Armstrong cannons hurl
projectiles of 500 lbs., and the Rodman Columbiads projectiles of half a
ton! It seems, then, that if projectiles have increased in range they
have lost in weight. Now, if we turn our efforts in that direction, we
must succeed with the progress of the science in doubling the weight of
the projectiles of Mahomet II. and the Knights of Malta."

"That is evident," answered the major; "but what metal do you intend to
employ for your own projectile?"

"Simply cast-iron," said General Morgan.

"Cast-iron!" exclaimed J.T. Maston disdainfully, "that's very common for
a bullet destined to go to the moon."

"Do not let us exaggerate, my honourable friend," answered Morgan;
"cast-iron will be sufficient."

"Then," replied Major Elphinstone, "as the weight of the projectile is
in proportion to its volume, a cast-iron bullet, measuring nine feet in
diameter, will still be frightfully heavy."

"Yes, if it be solid, but not if it be hollow," said Barbicane.

"Hollow!--then it will be an obus?"

"In which we can put despatches," replied J.T. Maston, "and specimens of
our terrestrial productions."

"Yes, an obus," answered Barbicane; "that is what it must be; a solid
bullet of 108 inches would weigh more than 200,000 lbs., a weight
evidently too great; however, as it is necessary to give the projectile
a certain stability, I propose to give it a weight of 20,000 lbs."

"What will be the thickness of the metal?" asked the major.

"If we follow the usual proportions," replied Morgan, "a diameter of 800
inches demands sides two feet thick at least."

"That would be much too thick," answered Barbicane; "we do not want a
projectile to pierce armour-plate; it only needs sides strong enough to
resist the pressure of the powder-gas. This, therefore, is the
problem:--What thickness ought an iron obus to have in order to weigh
only 20,000 lbs.? Our clever calculator, Mr. Maston, will tell us at

"Nothing is easier," replied the honourable secretary.

So saying, he traced some algebraical signs on the paper, amongst which
n^2 and x^2 frequently appeared. He even seemed to extract from them a
certain cubic root, and said--

"The sides must be hardly two inches thick."

"Will that be sufficient?" asked the major doubtfully.

"No," answered the president, "certainly not."

"Then what must be done?" resumed Elphinstone, looking puzzled.

"We must use another metal instead of cast-iron."

"Brass?" suggested Morgan.

"No; that is too heavy too, and I have something better than that to

"What?" asked the major.

"Aluminium," answered Barbicane.

"Aluminium!" cried all the three colleagues of the president.

"Certainly, my friends. You know that an illustrious French chemist,
Henry St. Claire Deville, succeeded in 1854 in obtaining aluminium in a
compact mass. This precious metal possesses the whiteness of silver, the
indestructibility of gold, the tenacity of iron, the fusibility of
copper, the lightness of glass; it is easily wrought, and is very widely
distributed in nature, as aluminium forms the basis of most rocks; it is
three times lighter than iron, and seems to have been created expressly
to furnish us with the material for our projectile!"

"Hurrah for aluminium!" cried the secretary, always very noisy in his
moments of enthusiasm.

"But, my dear president," said the major, "is not aluminium quoted
exceedingly high?"

"It was so," answered Barbicane; "when first discovered a pound of
aluminium cost 260 to 280 dollars; then it fell to twenty-seven dollars,
and now it is worth nine dollars."

"But nine dollars a pound," replied the major, who did not easily give
in; "that is still an enormous price."

"Doubtless, my dear major; but not out of reach."

"What will the projectile weigh, then?" asked Morgan.

"Here is the result of my calculations," answered Barbicane. "A
projectile of 108 inches in diameter and 12 inches thick would weigh, if
it were made of cast-iron, 67,440 lbs.; cast in aluminium it would be
reduced to 19,250 lbs."

"Perfect!" cried Maston; "that suits our programme capitally."

"Yes," replied the major; "but do you not know that at nine dollars a
pound the projectile would cost--"

"One hundred seventy-three thousand and fifty dollars. Yes, I know that;
but fear nothing, my friends; money for our enterprise will not be
wanting, I answer for that."

"It will be showered upon us," replied J.T. Maston.

"Well, what do you say to aluminium?" asked the president.

"Adopted," answered the three members of the committee.

"As to the form of the projectile," resumed Barbicane, "it is of little
consequence, since, once the atmosphere cleared, it will find itself in
empty space; I therefore propose a round ball, which will turn on
itself, if it so pleases."

Thus ended the first committee meeting. The question of the projectile
was definitely resolved upon, and J.T. Maston was delighted with the
idea of sending an aluminium bullet to the Selenites, "as it will give
them no end of an idea of the inhabitants of the earth!"



The resolutions passed at this meeting produced a great effect outside.
Some timid people grew alarmed at the idea of a projectile weighing
20,000 lbs. hurled into space. People asked what cannon could ever
transmit an initial speed sufficient for such a mass. The report of the
second meeting was destined to answer these questions victoriously.

The next evening the four members of the Gun Club sat down before fresh
mountains of sandwiches and a veritable ocean of tea. The debate then

"My dear colleagues," said Barbicane, "we are going to occupy ourselves
with the construction of the engine, its length, form, composition, and
weight. It is probable that we shall have to give it gigantic
dimensions, but, however great our difficulties might be, our industrial
genius will easily overcome them. Will you please listen to me and
spare objections for the present? I do not fear them."

An approving murmur greeted this declaration.

"We must not forget," resumed Barbicane, "to what point our yesterday's
debate brought us; the problem is now the following: how to give an
initial speed of 12,000 yards a second to a shot 108 inches in diameter
weighing 20,000 lbs.

"That is the problem indeed," answered Major Elphinstone.

"When a projectile is hurled into space," resumed Barbicane, "what
happens? It is acted upon by three independent forces, the resistance of
the medium, the attraction of the earth, and the force of impulsion with
which it is animated. Let us examine these three forces. The resistance
of the medium--that is to say, the resistance of the air--is of little
importance. In fact, the terrestrial atmosphere is only forty miles
deep. With a rapidity of 12,000 yards the projectile will cross that in
five seconds, and this time will be short enough to make the resistance
of the medium insignificant. Let us now pass to the attraction of the
earth--that is to say, to the weight of the projectile. We know that
that weight diminishes in an inverse ratio to the square of
distances--in fact, this is what physics teach us: when a body left to
itself falls on the surface of the earth, it falls 15 feet in the first
second, and if the same body had to fall 257,542 miles--that is to say,
the distance between the earth and the moon--its fall would be reduced
to half a line in the first second. That is almost equivalent to
immobility. The question is, therefore, how progressively to overcome
this law of gravitation. How shall we do it? By the force of impulsion?"

"That is the difficulty," answered the major.

"That is it indeed," replied the president. "But we shall triumph over
it, for this force of impulsion we want depends on the length of the
engine and the quantity of powder employed, the one only being limited
by the resistance of the other. Let us occupy ourselves, therefore,
to-day with the dimensions to be given to the cannon. It is quite
understood that we can make it, as large as we like, seeing it will not
have to be moved."

"All that is evident," replied the general.

"Until now," said Barbicane, "the longest cannon, our enormous
Columbiads, have not been more than twenty-five feet long; we shall
therefore astonish many people by the dimensions we shall have to

"Certainly," exclaimed J.T. Maston. "For my part, I ask for a cannon
half a mile long at least!"

"Half a mile!" cried the major and the general.

"Yes, half a mile, and that will be half too short."

"Come, Maston," answered Morgan, "you exaggerate."

"No, I do not," said the irate secretary; "and I really do not know why
you tax me with exaggeration."

"Because you go too far."

"You must know, sir," answered J.T. Maston, looking dignified, "that an
artilleryman is like a cannon-ball, he can never go too far."

The debate was getting personal, but the president interfered.

"Be calm, my friends, and let us reason it out. We evidently want a gun
of great range, as the length of the engine will increase the detention
of gas accumulated behind the projectile, but it is useless to overstep
certain limits."

"Perfectly," said the major.

"What are the usual rules in such a case? Ordinarily the length of a
cannon is twenty or twenty-five times the diameter of the projectile,
and it weighs 235 to 240 times its weight."

"It is not enough," cried J.T. Maston with impetuosity.

"I agree to that, my worthy friend, and in fact by keeping that
proportion for a projectile nine feet wide, weighing 30,000 lbs., the
engine would only have a length of 225 feet and a weight of 7,200,000

"That is ridiculous," resumed J.T. Maston. "You might as well take a

"I think so too," answered Barbicane; "that is why I propose to
quadruple that length, and to construct a cannon 900 feet long."

The general and the major made some objections, but, nevertheless, this
proposition, strongly supported by the secretary, was definitely

"Now," said Elphinstone, "what thickness must we give its sides?"

"A thickness of six feet," answered Barbicane.

"You do not think of raising such a mass upon a gun-carriage?" asked the

"That would be superb, however! said J.T. Maston.

"But impracticable," answered Barbicane. "No, I think of casting this
engine in the ground itself, binding it up with wrought-iron hoops, and
then surrounding it with a thick mass of stone and cement masonry. When
it is cast it must be bored with great precision so as to prevent
windage, so there will be no loss of gas, and all the expansive force of
the powder will be employed in the propulsion."

"Hurrah! hurrah!" said Maston, "we have our cannon."

"Not yet," answered Barbicane, calming his impatient friend with his

"Why not?"

"Because we have not discussed its form. Shall it be a cannon, howitzer,
or a mortar?"

"A cannon," replied Morgan.

"A howitzer," said the major.

"A mortar," exclaimed J.T. Maston.

A fresh discussion was pending, each taking the part of his favourite
weapon, when the president stopped it short.

"My friends," said he, "I will soon make you agree. Our Columbiad will
be a mixture of all three. It will be a cannon, because the
powder-magazine will have the same diameter as the chamber. It will be a
howitzer, because it will hurl an obus. Lastly, it will be a mortar,
because it will be pointed at an angle of 90 deg., and that without any
chance of recoil; unalterably fixed to the ground, it will communicate
to the projectile all the power of impulsion accumulated in its body."

"Adopted, adopted," answered the members of the committee.

"One question," said Elphinstone, "and will this _canobusomortar_ be

"No," answered Barbicane. "No, we must have an enormous initial speed,
and you know very well that a shot leaves a rifle less rapidly than a

"True," answered the major.

"Well, we have it this time," repeated J.T. Maston.

"Not quite yet," replied the president.

"Why not?"

"Because we do not yet know of what metal it will be made."

"Let us decide that without delay."

"I was going to propose it to you."

The four members of the committee each swallowed a dozen sandwiches,
followed by a cup of tea, and the debate recommenced.

"Our cannon," said Barbicane, "must be possessed of great tenacity,
great hardness; it must be infusible by heat, indissoluble, and
inoxydable by the corrosive action of acids."

"There is no doubt about that," answered the major, "and as we shall
have to employ a considerable quantity of metal we shall not have much

"Well, then," said Morgan, "I propose for the fabrication of the
Columbiad the best alloy hitherto known--that is to say, 100 parts of
copper, 12 of tin, and 6 of brass."

"My friends," answered the president, "I agree that this composition has
given excellent results; but in bulk it would be too dear and very hard
to work. I therefore think we must adopt an excellent material, but
cheap, such as cast-iron. Is not that your opinion, major?"

"Quite," answered Elphinstone.

"In fact," resumed Barbicane, "cast-iron costs ten times less than
bronze; it is easily melted, it is readily run into sand moulds, and is
rapidly manipulated; it is, therefore, an economy of money and time.
Besides, that material is excellent, and I remember that during the war
at the siege of Atlanta cast-iron cannon fired a thousand shots each
every twenty minutes without being damaged by it."

"Yet cast-iron is very brittle," answered Morgan.

"Yes, but it possesses resistance too. Besides, we shall not let it
explode, I can answer for that."

"It is possible to explode and yet be honest," replied J.T. Maston

"Evidently," answered Barbicane. "I am, therefore, going to beg our
worthy secretary to calculate the weight of a cast-iron cannon 900 feet
long, with an inner diameter of nine feet, and sides six feet thick."

"At once," answered J.T. Maston, and, as he had done the day before, he
made his calculations with marvellous facility, and said at the end of a

"This cannon will weigh 68,040 tons."

"And how much will that cost at two cents a pound?"

"Two million five hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and one

J.T. Maston, the major, and the general looked at Barbicane anxiously.

"Well, gentlemen," said the president, "I can only repeat what I said to
you yesterday, don't be uneasy; we shall not want for money."

Upon this assurance of its president the committee broke up, after
having fixed a third meeting for the next evening.



The question of powder still remained to be settled. The public awaited
this last decision with anxiety. The size of the projectile and length

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