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How we will finally reach the moon (1908)

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The flight of the projectile through the air would be so swift that at first the eyes could not follow it, then as it swam off gracefully through space, the eyes of every man, woman and child of the earth would seek to follow it, for through spectatoriums it would be possible to watch the progress of the projectile car. The great telescopes erected upon the highest peaks of the Andes and the Himalayas would follow the course of the projectile as it passed in its speedway through the attenuated, jellylike sea of ether, and all the time the wireless stations at Glace Bay, on the Eiffel tower and at various points of the earth would be giving back the message to man of his triumph over space and perhaps the secret of the universe.

Sir William Herschel's forty-foot telescope at slough. (1876)If Professor Dodge is to be believed, the daring scientists, upon reaching the surface of the moon, would not go to their doom, but to a new existence where they could communicate with the earth and perhaps arrange subsequent trips divested of even the dangers they encountered.

“Men could abide on the moon for a time,” says Professor Dodge, “in thick-walled, airtight houses, and could walk out of doors in airtight divers’ suits. Scientists would find in the wastes a fresh field for exploration. Astronomers could plant their telescopes there, free from their most serious hindrance — the earth’s atmosphere. Tourists of the wealthy and adventurous class would not fail to visit the satellite, and it is probable there are veins of precious metals, beds of diamonds and an abundance of sulphur in a world of so highly volcanic a character.”

“Let us suppose we arrive on these savage volcanic steppes of the moon about the middle of the day,” says the celebrated French astronomer Camille Flammarion. “From the black horizon shoot rapid arrows of solar light, which strike the summits of the moon mountains, while the plains and valleys remain in darkness. The light increases slowly. While with us in the central latitudes, the sun takes but two minutes and a quarter to rise, on the moon it takes nearly an hour, and consequently the light which it sends is very feeble for several minutes and only increases with extreme slowness.

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“The inhabitants of the lower hemisphere turned toward our earth admire in their sky a brilliant body, having a diameter about four times greater than that of the moon seen from our globe, and with a surface 14 times larger. This body, which is the earth, is the moon of the moon.”

“It soars motionless in the sky. The inhabitants of the center of the visible hemisphere see it almost constantly in their zenith. Its light diminishes with the distance of the country from this central point, up to the limit of this hemisphere, where they see our world placed like an enormous disk on the mountains. Beyond that they see us no more.

“The scientists of the moon have probably proved in the most categorical manner to the ignorant who surround them that the earth, not being habitable, should not be inhabited, and that It is made, solely to serve as a clock to the moon and to shine during the night.”

Alluring speculations that must someday, if man ever accomplishes the long dreamed of trip to the moon, be brought into the realm of exact science and not on the pages of astronomical lore.


Moon illustration from 1886 viaf Jerry Woodfill

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