From the Earth to the Moon  
Author Jules Verne
Original title De la Terre à la Lune
Translator unknown (1867), J.K. Hoyt (1869), Louis Mercier & Eleanor E. King (1873); Edward Roth (1874); Thomas H. Linklater (1877); I. O. Evans (1959), Lowell Bair (1967), Jacqueline and Robert Baldick (1970), Harold Salemson (1970), Walter James Miller (1996)
Illustrator Henri de Montaut
Country France
Language French
Series The Extraordinary Voyages #4
Genre(s) Science fiction novel
Publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel
Publication date 1865
Published in
Media type Print (Hardback)
Preceded by A Journey to the Center of the Earth
Followed by In Search of the Castaways

The projectile, as pictured in an engraving from the 1872 Illustrated Edition.


The firing of the Columbiad.

From the Earth to the Moon (French: De la Terre à la Lune, 1865) is a humorous science fantasy novel by Jules Verne and is one of the earliest entries in that genre. It tells the story of the president of a post-American Civil War gun club in Baltimore, his rival, a Philadelphia maker of armor, and a Frenchman, who build an enormous sky-facing Columbiad space gun and launch themselves in a projectile/spaceship from it to a Moon landing.

The story is also notable in that Verne attempted to do some rough calculations as to the requirements for the cannon and, considering the total lack of any data on the subject at the time, some of his figures are surprisingly close to reality. However, his scenario turned out to be impractical for safe manned space travel since a much longer muzzle would have been required to reach escape velocity while limiting acceleration to survivable limits for the passengers.

The real-life Apollo program bears similarities to the story:

  • Verne's cannon was called Columbiad; the Apollo 11 command module (Apollo CSM) was named Columbia.
  • The spacecraft crew consisted of three persons in each case.
  • The physical dimensions of the projectile are very close to the dimensions of the Apollo CSM.
  • Verne's voyage blasted off from Florida, as did all Apollo missions. (Verne correctly states in the book that objects launch into space most easily if they are launched towards the zenith of a particular location, and that the zenith would better line up with the moon's orbit from near the Earth's equator. In the book Florida and Texas compete for the launch, with Florida winning.)
  • The names of the crew, Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl, are vaguely similar to Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell, the crew of Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to travel to the moon, although it didn't actually land.
  • The cost of the program in the book is almost similar to the total cost of the Apollo program until Apollo 8.

The character of "Michel Ardan" in the novel was inspired by Félix Nadar.

Plot[edit | edit source]

It's been some time since the end of the American Civil War. The Gun Club, a society based in Baltimore and dedicated to the design of weapons of all kinds (especially cannons), meets when Impey Barbicane, its president, calls them to support his idea: according to his calculations, a cannon can shoot a projectile so that it reaches the moon. After receiving the whole support of his companions, a few of them meet to decide the place from where the projectile will be shot, the dimensions and makings of both the cannon and the projectile, and which kind of powder are they to use.

An old enemy of Barbicane, a Captain Nicholl of Philadelphia, designer of plate armor, declares that the enterprise is absurd and makes a series of bets with Barbicane, each of them of increasing amount over the impossibility of such feat.

The first obstacle, the money, and over which Nicholl has bet 1000 dollars, is raised from most countries in America and Europe, in which the mission reaches variable success (while the USA gives 4 million dollars, England doesn't give a farthing, being envious of the United States in matters of science), but in the end nearly five and a half million dollars are raised, which ensures the financial feasibility of the project.

After deciding the place for the launch (Stone's Hill in "Tampa Town", Florida; predating Kennedy Space Center's placement in Florida by almost 100 years; Verne gives the exact position as 27°7' northern latitude and 5°7' western longitude, of course relative to the meridian of Washington that is 27°7′0″N 82°9′0″W / 27.116667°N 82.15°W / 27.116667; -82.15[1] ), the Gun Club travels there and starts the construction of the Columbiad cannon, which requires the excavation of a 900-foot-deep (270 m) and 60-foot-wide (18 m) circular hole, which is made in the nick of time, but a surprise awaits Barbicane: Michel Ardan, a French adventurer, plans to travel aboard the projectile.

During a meeting between Ardan, the Gun Club and the inhabitants of Florida, Nicholl appears and challenges Barbicane to a duel, which is successfully stopped when Ardan, warned by J. T. Maston, secretary of the Gun Club, meets the rivals in the forest they have agreed to duel in. Meanwhile, Barbicane finds the solution to the problem of surviving the incredible acceleration that the explosion would cause. Ardan suggests Barbicane and Nicholl to travel with him in the projectile, and the offer is accepted.

In the end, the projectile is successfully launched, but the destinies of the three astronauts are left inconclusive. The sequel, Around the Moon, deals with what happens to the three men in their travel from the Earth to the Moon.

Technical feasibility of a space cannon[edit | edit source]

In his 1903 publication on space travel, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky refuted Verne's idea of using a cannon for space travel. He concluded that a gun would have to be impossibly long. The gun in the story would subject the payload to about 22000 g of acceleration (see formula).

Gerald Bull and the Project HARP proved after 1961 that a cannon can shoot a 180 kg (400 lb) projectile up to 180 kilometres (110 mi) of height and reach 32 percent of the needed escape velocity.[citation needed] Additionally, during the Plumbbob nuclear test series, a 900 kg (2,000 lb) capping plate made of steel was blasted away. Myths say that it entered outer space because it did reach a speed of between two and six times the escape velocity, but engineers[who?] believe it melted in the atmosphere.

Influence on popular culture[edit | edit source]

The novel was adapted as the opera Le voyage dans la lune in 1875, with music by Jacques Offenbach.

In H. G. Wells' 1901 The First Men in the Moon (also relating to the first voyagers to the Moon) the protagonist, Mr. Bedford, mentions Verne's novel to his companion, Professor Cavor, who replies (in a possible dig at Verne) that he does not know what Bedford is referring to.

The novel (along with Wells' The First Men in the Moon) inspired the first science fiction film, A Trip to the Moon, made in 1902 by Georges Méliès. In 1958, another film adaptation of this story was released, titled From the Earth to the Moon. It was one of the last films made under the RKO Pictures banner. The story also became the basis for the very loose adaptation Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon (1967), a caper-style British comedy starring Burl Ives and Terry-Thomas.

The novel and its sequel were the inspiration for the computer game Voyage: Inspired by Jules Verne.

Among its other homages to classic science fiction, an issue of Planetary involved the Planetary group finding that the Gun Club had been successful in launching the projectile, but that a miscalculation led to a slowly decaying orbit over the decades with the astronauts long dead from lack of air and food.

Barbicane appears in Kevin J. Anderson's novel Captain Nemo: The Fantastic History of a Dark Genius as an Ottoman official whose chief rival, Robur, designs a number of innovative weapons to counteract him, including an attempt to launch a three-man mission to the Moon.

During their return journey from the moon, the crew of Apollo 11 made reference to Jules Verne's book during a TV broadcast on July 23 [2]. The mission's commander, astronaut Neil Armstrong, said, "A hundred years ago, Jules Verne wrote a book about a voyage to the Moon. His spaceship, Columbia [sic], took off from Florida and landed in the Pacific Ocean after completing a trip to the Moon. It seems appropriate to us to share with you some of the reflections of the crew as the modern-day Columbia completes its rendezvous with the planet Earth and the same Pacific Ocean tomorrow."

Disneyland Paris[edit | edit source]

The first incarnation of the roller coaster Space Mountain in Disneyland Paris, named Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune, was based loosely on this novel, the ambience being that of the book being noted throughout the ride with its rivet and boiler plate effect. The ride includes the "Columbiad", which recoils with a bang and produces smoke as each car passes, giving riders the perception of being shot into space.

The attraction was built after the opening of Euro Disneyland and opened in 1995. The attraction's exterior was designed using a Verene era retro-futuristic influence, in keeping with the rest of Discoveryland.

During 2005, the ride was refurbished and renamed Space Mountain: Mission 2 as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth. The ride no longer features any of the original storyline based on the novel, with the exception of the name of the cannon (Columbiad) and "Baltimore Gun Club" signs.

In 1995 the BBC made a documentary about the creation of Space Mountain, called "Shoot For The Moon". The 44-minute programme followed Tim Delaney and his team in bringing the book From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne to life. The programme shows the development of the attraction, from conception over construction up to testing and fine-tuning the final attraction, including its soundtrack. The documentary, originally broadcast on BBC2 in the UK, was also aired on other channels in many countries.

Space Mountain is also located next to the walk-through attraction "Les Mystères du Nautilus" based on Walt Disney's adaptation of Jules Verne's other famous literary work Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

ar:من الأرض إلى القمر cs:Ze Země na Měsíc da:Fra jorden til månen de:Von der Erde zum Mond es:De la Tierra a la Luna fr:De la Terre à la Lune it:Dalla Terra alla Luna he:מהארץ לירח lt:Nuo Žemės į Mėnulį nl:Van de aarde naar de maan ja:月世界旅行 pl:Z Ziemi na Księżyc pt:De la Terre à la Lune ru:С Земли на Луну прямым путём за 97 часов 20 минут simple:From the Earth to the Moon sk:Cesta na Mesiac sv:Från jorden till månen tr:Ay'a Seyahat uk:Із Землі на Місяць zh:从地球到月球 (凡尔纳)

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