In a recent number of the Contemporary Review, there appeared an article by Col. F N Maude, of the British Army, disclosing the fact that there has been built in England a stupendous gun or projectile machine, invented by a Mr Simpson, which by the utilization of certain electrical forces can throw a projectile an initial distance of 300 miles.
With this startling fact in mind, Mr Robert C Auld, F Z S, revising editor of the American Supplement of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and contributor to the Encyclopedia Americana, etc; has prepared for the Herald the following article to show that the time may be comparatively near at hand when, with such an apparatus, it will be possible to throw a passenger-carrying body similar in form to a naval torpedo so far beyond the influence of the earth’s gravity that it must inevitably reach the nearest body inplanetary space, viz., the moon.
by Robert C Auld, F Z S
Is another of Jules Verne’s fantastic dreams to come true? Is a message to the moon, once the visionary fantasy of the author of “A Trip to the Moon,” to come within the realm of science?
For centuries, the moon has furnished an endless subject of astronomical conjecture. Only in recent years has it become a certain field of scientific exploration. Its volcanic cones and craters. Its dead river beds and verdureless mountains have all come within accurate geodetic survey.
It is only the intervening 239,000 miles of ether that separates it from the world that staggers the imagination of the scientist and layman alike, but if the claims of a London inventor, A S Simpson, are true, even that vast space may be traversed with assurance and safety. Mr. Simpson has Invented an electrical gun which he asserts will carry a projectile of 2,000 pounds at the rate of 20,000 feet a second for 500 miles. The actual test has not been made, but military authorities have endorsed the plans, and scientists may rejoice.
A gun with the propulsive power of the Simpson Invention, having the muzzle velocity claimed for it, overridesthe chief hindrance to mortal invasion of the moon.
Hitherto the problem that has perplexed scientists has been to penetrate the zone of gravity that encompasses the earth for’ a distance of some 150 miles. Once outside this atmospheric realm of gravity and air pressure the problem of reaching the moon, according to scientists, becomes less speculative than in Jules Verne’s time.
It is well known that the celebrated romancer of science founded his stories on actual knowledge of the period in which he lived. Scientific progress in the last 50 years has been great, but it sustains the French author’s idea that the only feasible way of sending a message to the moon is by firing a projectile from a huge gun.
Jules Verne used 400,000 pounds of nitroglycerin to explode his charge, the concussion being so great that 5,000,000 people who saw it fired were hurled to the ground. Electricity has altered the face and the character of the earth since then, co that the dangers of concussion may be eliminated.
Jules Verne’s gun was mythical; there was no propulsive power known at that time to science that would project a missile beyond the zone of the earth’s gravity. Only recently, Professor Ernest Crane Dodge, A. M. has stated that “a body relieved of gravity would reach the moon in 10 days.”
How much faster would a projectile from an enlarged Simpson gun, a veritable lunar cannon, accomplish the trip from the earth in the direction of the moon!
A lunar cannon based on the Simpson plan could easily hurl its projectile beyond the zone of the earth’s gravity. Through the unknown vacuum, ether and air currents the projectile, which in its lunar course would be controlled by progressive power, would be an air-tight chamber of the nature suggested by Jules Verne. The novelist had no actual parallel for his invention.
Today we have its counterpart in the submarine boat, and in such a car, equipped with every modern device of science for maintaining life, at least five scientists could make the trip in comfort and safety. The possibility that the force of the moon’s gravity would be such that the scientists might never return to earth would not daunt intrepid men, who have undertaken most hazardous experiments in polar and volcanic regions in the interest of the world’s knowledge.
Calculating by known ordnance and speculating by existent forces, the manufacture and the discharge of a lunar gun are not beyond the realm of reason. We have for a basis the 12-inch gun, the accepted limit of an effective naval rifle. The 12-inch gun will carry a projectile weighing 870 pounds a distance of six miles. The cost of this gun is $60,000. To fire it requires 250 pounds of smokeless powder at 50 cents a pound, or $200, the projectile itself costing $500.
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