Saturday, 1 March 2014

From The Earth To The Moon

I cannot take either Jules Verne's prose style or his characters seriously. Both the narrator and the characters are very precise about the technology of the cannon but very imprecise about the lunar environment. They do address the obvious point that the cannon blast should crush the occupants of the projectile.

It seems that Ardan, Barbicane and Nicholl go to the Moon to die. They have no way to return to Earth. When told that there is conclusive evidence that the Moon has no atmosphere, Ardan can reply only that there is some contrary evidence which makes it possible that there is an atmosphere but he address neither the obvious distinction between an atmosphere and a breathable atmosphere nor any other environmental factor such as temperature.

The original idea was just to fire a cannon at the Moon, not to redesign the projectile as a vehicle. Near the end, they even treble the number of passengers and take all sorts of extras, including two dogs. Verne ducks the issue of the lunar environment by having the projectile go into lunar orbit and ends with the optimism of a Terrestrial observer who is sure that the astronauts will find a way out of their predicament. When the projectile has left Earth, the narrative point of view remains Terrestrial so that, strangely, we lose direct contact with the astronauts. The idea for interplanetary communication was to write large letters in a desert and to send regular supplies in further projectiles.

I am genuinely curious as to what happens in the sequel, Round The Moon. The two projected options were either that their orbit would decay and that they would land after all or, alternatively, that they would remain in perpetual orbit. The sequal title seems to preclude the former and my understanding is that they do not land but what does happen and do they find a way either to return to Earth or to survive indefinitely in space?

No comments:

Post a Comment