History of Electric Induction Heating


By James Farol Metcalf

Beryllium in Space Travel

Following is chapter XXVII of Northrup's book that foresaw the use of beryllium in space travel.

Northrup was writing this in about 1935 as a fiction but the was actively engaged building his coil gun at Ajax Electrothermic in Trenton, NJ with Ted Kennedy doing most of the work. Ted is the "Jean" in fiction.

There is also text explaining the velocity required to reach the moon in the technical supplement that he copyrighted one year before his book.

CHAPTER XXVII of Zero to Eighty by Northrup, Copyright 1937


By postponing to a considerably later date our final attempt to circle the moon Jean and I saw that our chances of success would be much increased--and we would have longer to live should the Fates be unkind to us. We also clearly perceived the utmost importance when constructing our moon-ship of utilizing the very latest findings of science and the newest developments in technology. We wished, for example, to select for our use the best of the many light alloys that had been developed and that, at about this time, had begun to come into commercial use. We were particularly impressed with the properties of some of the new alloys of beryllium. This metal when pure, has a density of 1.8--only eighty per cent heavier than water. It melts at 1350 C. When to the pure metal a very small percentage of certain other metals is added, same of the alloys obtained are exceedingly strong and ductile. Pure beryllium itself does not easily corrode; and, what is of higher importance, many of its alloys, in the form of bars, sheets, et cetera, may be readily welded electrically. In short, we had about decided, after having tested many samples of beryllium alloys, that any one of several of them would be ideal material with which to construct our moon-ship.

A subsidiary of The Aluminum Company of America was already marketing in quantity a remarkable beryllium alloy, ninety-five per cent beryllium--a boon to aviation. We learned from the makers that they would soon be able to supply it to us in a form particularly suited to our needs, probably within a year or less. We would wait for this, we thought.

Furthermore, we were continually finding by our many tests important ways in which we might improve the construction and safety of our ship. We were also learning much about rockets of the type we must use to steer a course through space, and to get us free from the grip of the moon's gravitation when we reached the point in space at which to begin the return journey.

The technical world, the commercial world, and the United States government had become fully aware of the protean character of the linearly moving magnetic field, for we had repeatedly demonstrated it, and had shown with our Utah gun the enormous velocity that may be imparted to gross matter by its means.

About 1958 a company had been organized for the purpose of sending the mail in cylinders propelled by travelling magnetic waves. By the middle of 1959, mail was actually moving in aluminum cylinders between the New York and Chicago post offices in about two hours.

Our army and navy were also building and testing electric ordnance operated on the travelling wave principle that I have so fully described.

At this period Jean and I with our families were enjoying a very delightful social life, when we had time, with our local and out of town friends. No wonder then that we were not eager, with events shaping up as I have explained, to set an early date for our projected attempt to fly around the moon. However, we were ever mindful of Bert Thompson's visit, and of what he had told us regarding the activities of the Russians. We were certain also that Dr. Plungin had in his possession practically all we knew respecting the technical features of our planned equipment for the adventure. These and other considerations spurred us to push the world forward rapidly. So, as I shall describe in the following, we were soon to leave for the moon.