JF Ptak Science Books Post 1722
[My apologies to my readers: in an earlier version of this post I calculated that the Verne space module would be traveling 129,000,000 mph exiting the space cannon--that was wrong, I'm very sorry to say. The figure should have been 129,000,000 feet per hour, which would be about 25,000 mph. Mea culpa.]
Earlier in this blog appeared a post on the Eiffel Tower Happy Bullet. It turned out to be a highly-circulated bit, what with the subject matter and all--describing a gigantic bullet filled with people and dropped from the interior heights of the Eiffel Tower and landing in a big watery hole at the bottom. The effect of impact I think would have made those folks suffer Massive Internal Complications.
Impressive as the Eiffel bullet idea was, it was absolutely nothing compared to what another Frenchman thought of at about the same exact time. Perhaps no human could have suffered more internal disruption in any science fiction story than those who would have been subjected to Jules Verne's (whose birthday is today, February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905) space gun, an enormous Columbiad, the mode of propulsion for the travelers in his From the Earth the Moon/De la Terre a la Lune.
Verne's 20,000-lb projectile to the Moon would sit in a cannon-hole in the Earth that was 280 meters deep with a diameter of 2.7 meters, which would sit on the bottom of the hole capping off 200 feet of guncotton (!, weighing 400,000 pounds!). Somehow this mass would be ignited, and as Verne (or his brother) calculated would produce an initial velocity of 12,000 yards per second, which is 36,000 ft sec, or about 24,000 mph, which is a big enough number to attain the (more or less correct) escape velocity Ve of 11.2 km/sec. (Very high-velocity shells fired by tanks fitted for kinetic energy penetrator ammo attain a muzzle velocity of 5700 ft/sec.) And somewhere in there would be a crew greeting a rather-ncredible-to-write-down 22,000 gs. Astronauts in the Apollo program experienced something like 1g; dragster car drives who go from 0 to 100 mph in .86 seconds experience about 5.4g.
22,000gs is another thing entirely.
And difficult to imagine.
Jules Verne got a lot of stuff right in his long and lovely career--an there was quite a bit that he foretold correctly in this very story. Just not the take-off.
The further-funny thing about this space gun is that it made another appearance in another Verne story, The Purchase of the North Pole, 1889. During this period of human exploration there was a push to explore the Poles--in Verne's story, an attempt is made to simply this exploration. But not in the way you might think. Verne was going to employ the space gun, again, but this time to alter the axis of the Earth so as to make it easier to get to the Poles and exploit their natural resources. I must say that this answer was not at all clear to me, even with my best sci fi cap on: but Verne saw it, saw that it would be better for all concerned to move the Poles rather than moves towards them. And that's some pretty big thinking.