Thursday, August 30, 2012

to the moon

From the Earth to the Moon* is Jules Verne's 1865 novel about America's attempt to send a projectile to the moon. This book isn't as large as some of the other Verne books I've read, and frankly, not as good.

Verne takes the reader on a wonderful journey, spoiler warning it just doesn't go to the moon. "What?" you exclaim, "How can a story called From the Earth to the Moon, not actually include the moon, pray tell?" Yeah, good question.

Jules Verne instead, takes us on a tour of the American Spirit. This travelogue is not a fanciful trip around the world in a balloon, or under the sea with a monomaniacal U-boat captain, but a tour through what Verne believes sets American apart from the rest of the world: its ability to never take no for an answer, and its tireless pursuit of technological excellence. Verne states numerous times, that no nation on earth could overcome the technological and engineering challenges of sending a projectile to the moon, and describes in detail how the Americans do it. Its a flag-waving, back-slapping, kiss-on-the-mouth to American ingenuity and resolve... in 1865!

In fact, the USSR was the first to flyby the moon, on January 2, 1959, with Luna 1. The US didn't accomplish that goal until about two months later with Pioneer 4. The USSR was also first to impact a man-made probe on the moon with Luna 2, in September of the same year. The first lander and orbiter, also USSR with Luna 9 & 10, respectively, in 1966. The US and USSR then trade landers, orbiters, flybys, return probes and impacts until Apollo 8 orbits the moon on a manned mission on December 21, 1968, and then lands a manned mission** on the moon 7 months later, with Apollo 11, on July 16, 1969

For those of you counting, Verne predicted this achievement, and wrote about it rather convincingly, 103 years ahead of time.

This book will tweak your patriotism or your love for America, and scratch that classic, hard-SciFi itch you have, but beyond that, myeh.

* French title: De la Terre à la Lune
** Rest easy in the deepest of the deep; Neil Alden Armstrong

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