Friday, March 27, 2009

Jules Verne - Power of human mind

Jules Verne (1828 - 1905)
100 years before Apollo 8 Verne made
an amazing trip to the moon - in his mind

Jules Verne published in 1865 his world famous science fiction novel "From Earth to the Moon". De la terra à la lune. Trajet Direct della 97 Heures 20 minutes.

A giant gun is used to shoot a missile to the moon with three men riding inside it. Already the subtitle of the book shows that Verne did not only imagine such a fantastic possibility. He made very careful calculations about the smallest details of such a trip.

The artist wanted to show the size of the gun and not hide it in a hole

The huge gun was cast into a 274 m deep hole in the ground and its diameter was 2.74 meters. It was loaded with 61 meters high pile of gunpowder that weighted 122 tons. The missile was made of 30 cm thick aluminium and had hydraulic absorbers.

With such a powerful explosion Verne estimated that the missile would shoot from the gun at the speed of 16 km/s and that the friction of the atmosphere would then slow down the travelling speed to 11 km/s.

The trip begins!

Following really quite amazing comparisons have been made between the trip Jules Verne made in his mind in 1865 in France and what happened hundred years later in the USA:

Verne: The first trip to the moon would be done by United States of America.
- It was.

Verne: The project would cost $5,446,675 in the currency of 1865, $ 12.112 billion in 1969.
- when Apollo 8 project had made the trip around the moon the cost had been $ 14.405 billion.

Verne: There were three men in the missile, Ardan, Barbicane ja Nicholl.
- The astronauts in Apollo 8 were Anders, Borman and Lovell.
- The astronauts in Apollo 11 were Aldrin, Amstrong and Collins.

Verne: The missile would be made of aluminium and weighted 19,250 pounds.
- Apollo 8 capsule was made of aluminium and weighted 26,275 pounds.

Verne: The name of the gun was Columbiad.
- The commando module of Apollo 11 was named Columbia.

Verne: After consideration of 12 different launch sites in Texas and Florida the huge gun was located in Stone Hill, Florida near Tampa.
- NASA considered 7 different launch sites and rejected Texas. The final choice was Merritt Island in Florida.

Verne: The missile was shot in December at the location 27° 7' North and 82° 9' West.
After 242 hours and 31 minutes, including 48 hours around the moon the missile fell to the Pacific Ocean 20° 7' North and 118° 39' West.
The coast guard ship Susquehanna rescued the missile.

- Apollo 8 was launched in December hundred years later 28° 27' North and 80° 39' West. This is merely 213 km from the launch site given by Jules Verne.
After 147 hours and 1 minute with 20 hours 10 minutes around the moon the capsule fell into the Pacific Ocean 8° 10' North and 165° 00' West.
The coast guard ship Hornet saved it.

Of course, all is not well in Verne's plan well before rockets had been invited. It has been estimated that a 80 kg man would have the weight of 30.000 kg if shot to the space at the launching speed of 16 km/s. This would crush him to death.

And many other problems can surely be noticed by us who have seen the complicated oxygen masks and dresses astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts are using today. Despite of the problems we cannot but admire the power of human mind that can cross such distances and create such fictional and yet almost real stories as the amazing science fiction of Jules Verne.

The American astronauts travelling to the moon were well aware of Jules Verne's genius and published this photo of beautifully illuminated Apollo 8 at its launching pad in honour of his birthday February 8, 1828.


  1. Great post, I was generally aware of the 'coincidences', but was delighted to see it all put together.

    Btw, there is another 'coincidence that I am aware of, you probably are too,,,from the novel Gulliver’s Travels written by Jonathan Swift, who wrote about the two moon of Mars in 1726, 150 years before astronomer Asaph Hall discovered the two moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos in 1877, As it turned out, the orbital distances and periods used in the 'imagined' story were reasonably close to the actual.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Swift link is new to me and I am glad to learn more about it