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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Round The Moon - Preliminary Chapter - Recapitulating the First Part of This Work, and Serving as a Preface to the Second
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A Round The Moon - Preliminary Chapter - Recapitulating the First Part of This Work, and Serving as a Preface to the Second Post by :boboli Category :Long Stories Author :Jules Verne Date :July 2011 Read :3200

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A Round The Moon - Preliminary Chapter - Recapitulating the First Part of This Work, and Serving as a Preface to the Second

Preliminary Chapter - Recapitulating the First Part of This Work, and Serving as a Preface to the Second

During the year 186-, the whole world was greatly excited by a
scientific experiment unprecedented in the annals of science.
The members of the Gun Club, a circle of artillerymen formed at
Baltimore after the American war, conceived the idea of
putting themselves in communication with the moon!-- yes, with
the moon-- by sending to her a projectile. Their president,
Barbicane, the promoter of the enterprise, having consulted the
astronomers of the Cambridge Observatory upon the subject, took
all necessary means to ensure the success of this extraordinary
enterprise, which had been declared practicable by the majority
of competent judges. After setting on foot a public
subscription, which realized nearly L1,200,000, they began the
gigantic work.

According to the advice forwarded from the members of the
Observatory, the gun destined to launch the projectile had to be
fixed in a country situated between the 0 and 28th degrees of
north or south latitude, in order to aim at the moon when at the
zenith; and its initiatory velocity was fixed at twelve thousand
yards to the second. Launched on the 1st of December, at 10hrs.
46m. 40s. P.M., it ought to reach the moon four days after its
departure, that is on the 5th of December, at midnight
precisely, at the moment of her attaining her perigee, that is
her nearest distance from the earth, which is exactly 86,410
leagues (French), or 238,833 miles mean distance (English).

The principal members of the Gun Club, President Barbicane,
Major Elphinstone, the secretary Joseph T. Maston, and other
learned men, held several meetings, at which the shape and
composition of the projectile were discussed, also the position
and nature of the gun, and the quality and quantity of powder
to be used. It was decided: First, that the projectile should
be a shell made of aluminum with a diameter of 108 inches and a
thickness of twelve inches to its walls; and should weigh
19,250 pounds. Second, that the gun should be a Columbiad
cast in iron, 900 feet long, and run perpendicularly into
the earth. Third, that the charge should contain 400,000 pounds
of gun-cotton, which, giving out six billions of litres of gas in
rear of the projectile, would easily carry it toward the orb of night.

These questions determined President Barbicane, assisted by
Murchison the engineer, to choose a spot situated in Florida, in
27@ 7' North latitude, and 77@ 3' West (Greenwich) longitude.
It was on this spot, after stupendous labor, that the Columbiad
was cast with full success. Things stood thus, when an incident
took place which increased the interest attached to this great
enterprise a hundredfold.

A Frenchman, an enthusiastic Parisian, as witty as he was bold,
asked to be enclosed in the projectile, in order that he might
reach the moon, and reconnoiter this terrestrial satellite.
The name of this intrepid adventurer was Michel Ardan. He landed
in America, was received with enthusiasm, held meetings, saw
himself carried in triumph, reconciled President Barbicane to
his mortal enemy, Captain Nicholl, and, as a token of
reconciliation, persuaded them both to start with him in
the projectile. The proposition being accepted, the shape
of the projectile was slightly altered. It was made of a
cylindro-conical form. This species of aerial car was lined with
strong springs and partitions to deaden the shock of departure.
It was provided with food for a year, water for some months,
and gas for some days. A self-acting apparatus supplied the
three travelers with air to breathe. At the same time, on one
of the highest points of the Rocky Mountains, the Gun Club had
a gigantic telescope erected, in order that they might be able
to follow the course of the projectile through space. All was
then ready.

On the 30th of November, at the hour fixed upon, from the midst
of an extraordinary crowd of spectators, the departure took place,
and for the first time, three human beings quitted the terrestrial
globe, and launched into inter-planetary space with almost a
certainty of reaching their destination. These bold travelers,
Michel Ardan, President Barbicane, and Captain Nicholl, ought to
make the passage in ninety-seven hours, thirteen minutes, and
twenty seconds. Consequently, their arrival on the lunar disc
could not take place until the 5th of December at twelve at night,
at the exact moment when the moon should be full, and not on the
4th, as some badly informed journalists had announced.

But an unforeseen circumstance, viz., the detonation produced
by the Columbiad, had the immediate effect of troubling the
terrestrial atmosphere, by accumulating a large quantity of
vapor, a phenomenon which excited universal indignation, for the
moon was hidden from the eyes of the watchers for several nights.

The worthy Joseph T. Maston, the staunchest friend of the three
travelers, started for the Rocky Mountains, accompanied by the
Hon. J. Belfast, director of the Cambridge Observatory, and
reached the station of Long's Peak, where the telescope was
erected which brought the moon within an apparent distance of
two leagues. The honorable secretary of the Gun Club wished
himself to observe the vehicle of his daring friends.

The accumulation of the clouds in the atmosphere prevented all
observation on the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th of December.
Indeed it was thought that all observations would have to be put
off to the 3d of January in the following year; for the moon
entering its last quarter on the 11th, would then only present
an ever-decreasing portion of her disc, insufficient to allow
of their following the course of the projectile.

At length, to the general satisfaction, a heavy storm cleared
the atmosphere on the night of the 11th and 12th of December,
and the moon, with half-illuminated disc, was plainly to be seen
upon the black sky.

That very night a telegram was sent from the station of Long's
Peak by Joseph T. Maston and Belfast to the gentlemen of the
Cambridge Observatory, announcing that on the 11th of December
at 8h. 47m. P.M., the projectile launched by the Columbiad of
Stones Hill had been detected by Messrs. Belfast and Maston--
that it had deviated from its course from some unknown cause,
and had not reached its destination; but that it had passed near
enough to be retained by the lunar attraction; that its
rectilinear movement had been changed to a circular one, and
that following an elliptical orbit round the star of night it
had become its satellite. The telegram added that the elements
of this new star had not yet been calculated; and indeed three
observations made upon a star in three different positions are
necessary to determine these elements. Then it showed that the
distance separating the projectile from the lunar surface "might"
be reckoned at about 2,833 miles.

It ended with the double hypothesis: either the attraction of
the moon would draw it to herself, and the travelers thus attain
their end; or that the projectile, held in one immutable orbit,
would gravitate around the lunar disc to all eternity.

With such alternatives, what would be the fate of the travelers?
Certainly they had food for some time. But supposing they did
succeed in their rash enterprise, how would they return?
Could they ever return? Should they hear from them?
These questions, debated by the most learned pens of the day,
strongly engrossed the public attention.

It is advisable here to make a remark which ought to be well
considered by hasty observers. When a purely speculative
discovery is announced to the public, it cannot be done with too
much prudence. No one is obliged to discover either a planet,
a comet, or a satellite; and whoever makes a mistake in such a
case exposes himself justly to the derision of the mass.
Far better is it to wait; and that is what the impatient Joseph
T. Maston should have done before sending this telegram forth to
the world, which, according to his idea, told the whole result
of the enterprise. Indeed this telegram contained two sorts of
errors, as was proved eventually. First, errors of observation,
concerning the distance of the projectile from the surface of
the moon, for on the 11th of December it was impossible to see
it; and what Joseph T. Maston had seen, or thought he saw, could
not have been the projectile of the Columbiad. Second, errors of
theory on the fate in store for the said projectile; for in making
it a satellite of the moon, it was putting it in direct
contradiction of all mechanical laws.

One single hypothesis of the observers of Long's Peak could ever
be realized, that which foresaw the case of the travelers (if
still alive) uniting their efforts with the lunar attraction to
attain the surface of the disc.

Now these men, as clever as they were daring, had survived the
terrible shock consequent on their departure, and it is their
journey in the projectile car which is here related in its most
dramatic as well as in its most singular details. This recital
will destroy many illusions and surmises; but it will give a
true idea of the singular changes in store for such an
enterprise; it will bring out the scientific instincts of
Barbicane, the industrious resources of Nicholl, and the
audacious humor of Michel Ardan. Besides this, it will prove
that their worthy friend, Joseph T. Maston, was wasting his
time, while leaning over the gigantic telescope he watched the
course of the moon through the starry space.

Content of Preliminary Chapter - Recapitulating the First Part of This Work, and Serving as a Preface to the Second (Jules Verne's novel: A trip around the Moon)

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Chapter XXVIII - A New StarThat very night, the startling news so impatiently awaited,burst like a thunderbolt over the United States of the Union,and thence, darting across the ocean, ran through all thetelegraphic wires of the globe. The projectile had beendetected, thanks to the gigantic reflector of Long's Peak!Here is the note received by the director of the Observatoryof Cambridge. It contains the scientific conclusion regardingthis great experiment of the Gun Club.