Northrupís Trip to the Moon
The following is part of Northrup's book. He takes us to the moon in his spaceship in vivid detail.
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.
HASTY PREPARATIONS FOR OUR MOON TRIP
A year had passed since my paper before the Weft-Warp Club given June I0, 1960. Jean and I were at last able to say that our 200kilometer-long gun, the five temporary power-houses, and all the electrical equipment, had been completed, satisfactory installed, tested, and found good.
To protect the electric gun from the weather we had enclosed its entire length in a tunnel-like covering of strong white canvas. Seen from an airplane, the gun had the appearance of a very long white cord, reaching from a point far in the level country and up the ascending slope of Popocatepetl to its very snow-capped crest. The five temporary power-houses, made of sheet metal, housed five generators of 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 cycles respectively. These were located close alongside the gun at intervals of forty kilometers. Seen from the sky they might be taken for shiny, grey beads attached by very thin black threads (in reality the power cables) to a long white cord.
The mountain as it appeared in the distance to a camera pointed west is shown in a sketch which I reproduce for these pages. Our gun rested on a roadbed and trestlework placed wherever needed to carry it over depressions and other inequalities of the ground. It extended in a nearly straight line down the southeast slope, and then passed somewhat to the south of the town of Puebla, which appears in the middle foreground of the sketch.
In the book is a picture page of a snow-capped mountain that looks like Mount Hood.
Now that our paraphernalia were in order, we thought it precautionary to spend at least one, or perhaps several weeks in further tests of the equipment. We wished to determine, in particular, what velocity would remain to an empty projectile shot with the full power of the gun, after it had passed through the earth's atmosphere-where it would encounter an unpredictable backward drag. We had provided four extra projectiles to determine by trials this loss of velocity. These were loaded with sand to equal the weight of the one which would carry us. They also held some compressed oxygen and powdered magnesium. By means of an automatic firing device carried in the projectile one-half of the oxygen-magnesium mixture would fire first and be ejected from the nozzle in the rear, giving a brilliant flash of light. This first flare would occur when the projectile had passed through the atmosphere; then the other half would fire at a predetermined later time. By photographing these two successive flashes from two stations located at a selected distance apart, the space traveled by the projectile in a known time, and hence its velocity, could be calculated by the ordinary methods of trigonometry.
The first of the four projectiles had been shot up quite successfully, and its velocity when first free of the atmosphere was found to be 9.3 kilometers per second. This told us that we must obtain an additional 1.9 kilometers per second with rockets. The outcome of this test was satisfactory, although we wished to make further trials to confirm our results, and we looked forward to several weeks more of experimentation. Then something happened which changed our plans. We had scarcely completed our analysis of this first and only test flight when a cablegram, clear to us only, was delivered to me. It read:
June 28, I96I,
10 p.m. local time.
"Have information electric is completed stop will be used within next twenty to thirty hours.
I read the cablegram aloud to Jean. It was plain to us that an early moon-flight of the Russians was meant.
Jean remarked, "Kad, no more tests. We must be off at once or we shall be anticipated."
"We leave at sundown," I replied. "We can then travel a small part of the way in the earth's shadow. It is now 4:00 p.m. by local time. It is 1:00 a.m. by Russian time. The Russians will probably wait for sunset before they take off. We will beat them to it by at least several hours.
"The momentous day had arrived--the time for which Jean and I had lived our lives, and spent a fortune!
OFF FOR THE MOON!
At seven o'clock in the evening of the same day that we received Bert Thompson's cablegram--June 28, 1961--Jean and I had completed all the necessary arrangements for our journey. After a hurried final inspection of the moon-ship, we encased ourselves in the tightly fitting canvas suits I have already described. Before the zippers closing in the face and chest were pulled, each of us shook hands with the members of the Weft-Warp Club who were present to see us off. Then each kissed his brave but tearful wife and crawled into the loadship. The ship had been so constructed that an elliptically shaped portion of its side wall could be removed and replaced, for entry and exit, in a manner to make the interior strictly air-tight.
This last maneuver had been rehearsed often, so everything proceeded without a hitch. Our assistants closed us in and we secured the door from the inside. A flashlight provided us with light. We fastened the snappers of the cords to the rings in our suits. For each of us two cords were also fastened to the platform on which we stood, instead of to the load-ship wall above our heads. We had taken into account that when we issued from the gun a deacceleration due to the friction of the air on the outside wall of the long projectile would begin--which would reduce the velocity with which the projectile left the gun. In consequence of this, our bodies by their inertia would tend to maintain the same velocity, and therefore--unless proper precautions were taken--we should be violently thrown upward against the top wall of the load-ship chamber. This was prevented by anchoring our bodies from below. It may be noted here that the canvas suits fitted so tightly that it was very discomforting to endure their pressure, which was equally great over all parts of the body; but I should not now be writing my memoirs if we had not worn them.
Our flow of rocket fuel and oxygen to breathe were under perfect control with hand-manipulated valves. Scores of ground trials had familiarized us with their operation, which had become as automatic to us as the manipulation of a car or an airplane.
It was not long before our assistants outside, with suitable lifting apparatus, had placed the moon-ship in the breech of the electric gun. Then we received a sound signal that everything was ready. The generators were all running at full speed. It only remained to throw one switch which would connect the first section of the gun to the bus-bars and we would be off. All the other switches would close and open automatically as the projectile advanced in the gun.1 Each second shortly after the start we should be gaining speed at the rate of over 300 meters per second. At the end of thirty-six seconds or a little more we should be leaving the muzzle with a velocity which would not be far from eleven kilometers per second--25,000miles per hour.
At precisely 7:45 p.m. the switch was closed and we were off.
Thirty-six seconds is not long, but a man can die in much less time. The instant our acceleration started I began to have weird sensations. The pressure of the tight-fitting canvas suit on my body seemed to increase many fold; but this increase in pressure was not the same all over my body. It was greatest about my feet and ankles, less over my chest and back, and much less over my neck and face. I felt as if my blood and all the organs in my body were going into my legs. Some blood surely did leave my retinas and brain, for all went black before my eyes and I lost consciousness.
When my senses came back, my first conscious act was to examine the stop watch fastened to the wall before my face. It read 7:48:25--three minutes, twenty-five seconds after starting. I knew then that it must be about three minutes since we had left the muzzle of the gun, and that we were probably already 2,000 kilometers above the earth. We were, therefore, far out of the atmosphere and the influence of its backward drag. I felt perfectly comfortable. It was curious that I seemed suddenly to have lost all my weight, as does a man when he drops a very heavy burden from his back.
My next thought was for Jean. I looked at him. He showed no visible signs of life. With nervous haste I unfastened the snappers from my own suit and hastened to unfasten his. When the last cord was loosed, his body remained erect, but he had every appearance of being lifeless. Filled with terrifying forebodings, I slid back the zippers of his suit and pulled it off. His face was very white and covered with cold perspiration. A thought, expelling all other consciousness, took instant seat in my brain.
"Oh, Jean, it was I who brought you to this strange death!"
But my relief came soon. Jean's limbs began to quiver; some color returned to his face; his eyes opened; and his lips parted to say, "Good, Kad, you are alive too, and we are on our way!"
"Yes," I said, "we both fainted; but we are all right now, and kind fortune rides with us. We can soon start taking observations."
As previously explained, the load-ship in which we were housed was located inside the twenty-meter-long cylinder. For a very brief time we had moved in the earth's shadow, but already the fierce rays of the sun, untempered by a blanket of atmosphere, were striking our ship like fiery shafts. Would they heat it until we were cooked, or, what would be just as disastrous, would they boil away our life sustaining cargo of liquid oxygen? Or, on the other hand, would we be frozen by the cold of celestial space?
To take care of this latter possibility, we had provided for detouring from the rocket-explosion chamber small quantities of gasoline and oxygen and burning this mixture in a metal tube located near the inner wall of our enclosure. As to the other possibility: knowing full well in advance what might happen, we had given all surfaces of our load-ship, inside and out, a heavily plated coating of burnished silver. This gave our ship an excellent mirror surface. We expected that the silvery surface would reflect back such a large percentage of the sun's unobstructed rays that the interior of our craft and the fluids it carried would be little heated. When we finally emerged into full sunlight our expectation was realized: the rise of the mercury in the thermometer was practically nil. The silvered surfaces and the alcohol cooled with "dry ice" had done their work, and our load-ship was at a comfortable temperature.
Six radially projecting bolts securely held the load-ship in place in the long cylinder so that the distance between its forward end and the front cap of the cylinder was about two meters. One of the first things we did was to retract these six bolts, leaving the load-ship free to move forward within the cylinder, and also freeing the cap, which was driven off by the expansion of the air carried in the space between it and the front end of the load-ship.
Our second act was to start the central rocket in the rear end of the load-ship. When we did this, the ship received a sudden acceleration, and emerged from the cylinder. We gained velocity rapidly, and soon left the cylinder behind us.
The light of the waning moon, now one-quarter full, came into our car through one of its six windows. We took observations of the moon and determined that we were moving in a direction which made an angle of about thirty-eight degrees with a line between us and this body. This gave us no concern because, when ready, we could easily alter our direction of flight.
I should state here that we carried a dictograph of modern type and of small size and weight, which recorded every sound and word spoken. Because of this I am able to record accurately all which I select.
All this time we tried a thing sound in theory and now proved true in practice. It was this: when one of our windows was out of line of sight of something we wished to observe, as a star or the moon, one of us could bring this window into line by turning his body in the opposite direction we wished to rotate the load-ship. The law of action and reaction for rotation is precisely the same as it is for linear motion. In this way we could see or photograph whatever we wished.
When no rocket was operating, we had, of course, absolutely no sensation of motion. We seemed to be hung in space as immovable--and I may add, as lonesome--as a fixed star; yet we were moving many kilometers per second.
We next operated momentarily two of the steering rockets in addition to the central rocket, and soon our ship was pointed straight at the moon.
In order to see what lay directly ahead we made use of a retractile tube fitted with telescopic lenses, giving a magnification of sixty. This tube could be pushed through another tube connecting the inner and outer walls of the load-ship; the end of the movable tube then extended half a meter or more beyond the outside wall. Near the object-glass end of this tubular construction was an opening in its side wall, and behind this opening was a forty-five degree prism, which caught the rays from any object directly ahead or behind and turned them at right angles to pass through the telescopic tube to the eye. We used this telescope to observe the moon, toward which we were directly headed. Already it showed an increase in its apparent size. By rotating the telescope through 180o we could see the earth, which by this time we had left well behind us. It had taken on the appearance of a disk of vast dimensions.
We were viewing the earth as from a fixed point in space. That is, if our position had been such that a straight line drawn through it from the earth's center continued and also passed through the sun's center we would have seen all of the earth's disk in full illumination. However, if the line from the earth's center through our position made an angle with a straight line between the centers of the earth and sun, part of the earth's disk would appear to us in shadow. As we actually saw the earth's hemisphere which faced us we judged it to be about two-thirds illuminated. This condition continued all the time that our moon-ship was on its round trip journey between the earth and moon.
For an hour or more I watched our beautiful earth, a strange and wonderful sight from our position, which no one before us had ever occupied. Then I rotated the telescope until the moon was in view. The earth had grown visibly smaller, the moon was getting larger. I estimated by the angle which the disk of the moon subtended that we had thus far gone about 45,000 kilometers.
It may be well to describe here a certain structural feature of our load-ship which helped us to avoid the consequences of an accident which might easily have brought disaster. The space between the inner and outer walls of the load-ship was divided lengthwise into six compartments.2 Two of these six compartments were filled with rocket fuel--gasoline, vital for giving the ship both direction and added speed. There was a small quantity of compressed air in the gasoline chambers, to drive the liquid into the combustion chamber when a valve was opened. The other four chambers contained our supply of liquid oxygen, required for burning the gasoline and for our lungs. It is clear that the smallest hole pierced in the outer wall of one or more of these chambers containing gasoline or oxygen would permit one or both of these precious fluids to escape into outer space; and an irreparable puncture through both inner and outer walls would be still more disastrous, allowing the breathable air within the load-ship to escape. This being understood, I now tell what happened.
After some discussion we decided that we would operate the propulsion rocket for increasing our velocity until we had used all of the gasoline in one of the two chambers. We did this, and then found that our velocity was what we calculated it should be, in order to reach that point where we would begin our semi-orbit around the moon at a distance somewhat in excess of 6,000 kilometers from its center.
All had gone well for about five hours when Jean excitedly said: "Kad, the barometer shows the air pressure in our ship is falling fast. We have a leak!"
With a flashlight we at once began an inspection of every square centimeter of the inner surface of the ship.
"Here's the trouble!" I exclaimed, and pointed to a hole not larger than a match stick. It was not five centimeters above my head. There was also a corresponding hole through the outer wall of the ship. With my eye placed near the inner hole I could see out into space. Our air was escaping rapidly. I turned to examine the diametrically opposite side of the load-ship wall, and there found an identical hole in both the outer and inner walls.
"Hurry, Jean, hand me those rubber patches we brought along." I quickly covered both holes in the inner wall and our life fluid escaped from the inside no more.
"Are we losing our gas and oxygen? " asked Jean.
"No, Jean," I replied. "A miracle has happened. That tiny meteor, attracted by the sun and going possibly twenty kilometers per second, twice pierced our ship, but its path was through the gas and oxygen chambers we have just emptied! What is more, it missed my head by a very narrow margin. These tramp meteors are apparently a very real hazard in navigating celestial space."
The silence in our ship, when we ourselves made no sound, was absolute. It was oppressive. Our bodily sensations were not unpleasant, but unlike any we had ever felt before. To break the awful silence with our voices, and also to clarify our minds on the causes of our peculiar sensations, we started a discussion running as follows.
WHERE THERE IS NO WEIGHT
"Jean," I began, "suppose we carried in the bottom of the load-ship a pool of mercury. Assume that at this moment we were to open a hole at the bottom of the pool which might let the mercury flow out into space, what do you say would happen? "
"The mercury, unless pushed out by the air in our ship, would not run out of the hole," Jean replied, quite correctly. "You see, Kad, our ship and all that is in it are falling toward the earth with the same velocity. Of course, we are leaving the earth at great speed, but our velocity is growing less each second of time by just that amount which a body at this distance from the earth falls each second toward the earth's center. It is not wrong, therefore, to say we are falling. If the mercury were to run out of the hole in the bottom of our ship, and so be left behind it, a fundamental law in mechanics would be violated--the law that Galileo first announced in stating that regardless of their density or size all to the time all masses in a vacuum fall equal distances in equal times; or otherwise said: the velocity of decent is proportional to the time of falling, and is the same for all bodies. Our ship is losing velocity directed away from the earth each second of time. If the mercury were to run out of the hole and fall behind our ship, it would be falling toward the earth more rapidly than the ship itself. This would violate Galileo's law."
"Correct, Jean," I replied, "but would you say that the mercury has no weight because it does not run out of the hole in the bottom of its container?
"It has mass, Kad, but its weight while in the moving ship is gone."
"Then, Jean," I queried, "if with a dipper you were to dip up some of this mercury from the pool and raise it, let us say, one meter above the surface of the pool, your muscles would have to do no work?"
Jean replied, "You would do no work in overcoming a weight to lift the mercury, but I don't think your statement entirely covers the case. You see, Kad, one must exert a trifling force to start the mass of mercury moving and a like force to bring it to rest again at any point. It is quite true that we and all else inside our projectile give no evidence of possessing any weight whatsoever. But our projectile and all that it contains have lost none of their mass. The quantity of matter remains the same. The measure of any weight, as everyone knows, is the product of its mass by the increase in its velocity per second when it is freely falling toward the center of a gravitationally attracting body, usually the earth. As for this projectile and all that is in it, we may state that its weight, a force pulling toward the earth's center, was annulled by the kinetic energy imparted to the projectile and its contents when they left the muzzle of our gun. As you well know, weight is only relative. Mass alone is absolute, and though Einstein believed mass may be converted into energy, still it never goes out of existence. At this moment our projectile and everything inside it are being deaccelerated by the pull of the earth's attraction, but all parts of it are being deaccelerated to precisely the same extent. Nevertheless, if with your muscles you move any free mass from a lower to a higher point within the interior of our ship while it is in free flight in space, you at first add a trifle to its present velocity through space, that is, you very slightly accelerate it. To do this requires the exertion of a slight force. Then when you have brought the mass to the position where you wish it to remain you must exert the same force to stop its motion. It is well to add that all such actions which may go on within our swiftly moving home do not by the minutest amount change the position of its center of gravity."
To this I replied: "You are quite right, Jean, and it becomes apparent that the only place on earth where we should find no gravity pulling us down is at its precise center. I think to have this experience would be far more difficult than we have found it to come here. We are indeed the only weightless creatures in the solar system."
"Unless," suggested Jean, "at this very time some others are on a venture like our own....let us make some experiments," he added.
We both stood erect with our feet touching--but not pressing--the floor board of the load-ship. Jean placed a finger on my shoulder, and by exerting a scarcely perceptible pressure his body rose upward until he arrested its motion by touching the inner wall of the loadship lightly with his outstretched hand. Then, when he withdrew his hands, his body remained like Mohammed's coffin as reported by the Faithful, suspended in space.
I then tried the same thing with little results. It was curious indeed to note that I could change my now weightless body to ally new position with but the touch of a finger against anything attached to the load-ship. We observed later, when we had reached the point in space where the pull of the moon's attraction and the earth's attraction are equal, that the phenomena above described were in no wise modified.
It was a strange condition which had so completely cancelled the pull of gravity on everything within our ship. This condition, I reflected, could not have been fully established until we had left behind us the earth's atmosphere; while we were passing through it, its backward drag must have acted to deaccelerate our projectile more than bodies unattached to the inside wall of the projectile. Therefore, during this period we must have felt as if we weighed less than nothing.
We noted when attempting to drink water from a glass that the liquid behaved in a most curious manner. In the first place, to fill the glass the water had to come from a small closed vessel with a pressure of air above the liquid to force it into our drinking glass. When there, it at once assumed a spherical shape, lying in the glass like a crystal ball. To drink it we had to toss it from the glass into the opened mouth. Again, when the glass was jerked back from its open end, the water by its inertia was left behind, and because of its surface tension took--after a few oscillations--the shape of a perfect sphere. This beautiful sphere of clear water could be blown about with the breath like a soap-bubble, to any part of the projectile's interior space.
It should be clearly understood, of course, that all I have just stated held true only so long as our rockets were not being operated. When at any time a forward acceleration was given to the load-ship by the push from a rocket, our bodies then pressed down on the foot platform with a force exactly proportional to this acceleration. Indeed, by measuring this force with a spring balance we were able to tell just what acceleration the rocket was giving us.
After we had been on our way for some hours, we began to take short sleeps in turn, our bodies being fastened to hooks in the wall. We expected to be over five days on the journey and some sleep was necessary.
THE INVISIBLE SIDE OF THE MOON
Some time after what has just been mentioned, while Jean was taking observations with the retractile telescope, he remarked: "Kad, the apparent diameters of the moon and the earth are now exactly the same."
"Let me see. . .. Yes, we have come almost exactly four-fifths of the distance from the earth to the moon. The real diameter of the moon is slightly more than one-quarter the diameter of the earth. If from our point of view both bodies subtend the same angle then their relative distances are in the ratio of one to four. We certainly can't get lost when we can see both the earth and the moon."
The earth behind us was no longer partially encircled by a glorious halo of sunlight produced by the refraction of its atmosphere. In the region of its southern pole this circle of light had greatly widened into a huge crescent, but the cusps of the crescent were not sharply defined as appear the horns of the moon. They blended gradually into the band of light which partly completed the circle.
Thus far, we had been travelling in a line pointing directly to the center of the moon. It now became advisable to veer our course slightly, so we would pass the moon to our left at a distance of about 6,370 kilometers from its center, or about 4,640 kilometers from its surface. This was accomplished without difficulty by operating our steering rockets. It was not so simple, however, to adjust: our speed so that at the proper moment and place our progress would be 3,150 kilometers per hour.
This velocity, we had calculated, was required in order that we should start on a circular orbit around the moon at that distance from the moon's center which we had chosen as equal to the radius of the earth. While we could at any time add to our velocity by starting n rocket, we possessed no means of reducing the velocity we had already acquired, without turning the ship end for end. If, at the radius we had selected, we attempted to begin our circular orbit with too high a velocity we would pass by the moon and never become its satellite.
That is, an excess velocity would make it necessary to steer our ship into an orbit of smaller radius. This we did not wish to do, because the smaller the radius of our orbit the more rocket fuel we would have to burn in order to escape from this orbit for the return voyage. However, we had so carefully charted our course and had so cautiously added increments to our velocity that we arrived at the proper point to begin our curved motion around the moon with a speed very close to that which we had calculated as right.
We now had been on our way about sixty hours, and in a few minutes, if our calculations had not deceived us, we would be moving around the moon in the arc of a circle with a radius of 6,370 kilometers. During this period the only expenditure of energy connected with our load-ship would be the little we needed for breathing or in muscular motion.
Our brains, however, seethed with activity, and this activity we could further stimulate by enriching a little the oxygen content of the restricted interior which formed our crowded home. We had plenty of leisure for making observations, taking pictures, and for discussing the nature of the uncanny things we saw and felt.
"Jean," I remarked, "we are now at a place where we should see a considerable portion of the moon's surface which is invisible from the earth. We see nothing, however, except a very narrow crescent of light in the west and a round, black hole in the star-clustered background. At this time most of the moon's surface is invisible from our position, because it is in shadow. The background to the moon, where no stars or planets shine, is jet black; and there is no light reflected from the earth to feebly illuminate and reveal this hemisphere of the moon. If our reasoning did not tell us otherwise, it would be hard to believe the moon is a sphere. As yet much of its hemisphere is wholly invisible to us. It is just blackness, for starlight is too weak to light its surface."
"Yes," replied Jean, "but that huge sharply outlined crescent of light is widening, and we shall later be able to get good photographs of much of the moon's surface. What is your opinion, Kad, of the cause of the roughness of this surface and its many so-called craters?"
"Well," I replied, "I think volcanic action, as we understand it on the earth, has played a comparatively small part in roughening the moon's surface. The tremendous quantities of ejecta and the great heights to which the material is thrown by a volcano on the earth are made possible only by volatile fluids such as oil or water coming into contact with molten material. Thus, a fissure may open in the rock which allows surface water to reach the white-hot scoriae below. Steam is generated in vast amounts which exert enormous pressure. The upper crust gives way at its weakest points, and the entrapped vapors escape, often carrying up the solid and fluid matter to a height of several thousand meters. The material falling back to earth builds up a ringlike mass, forming what we call a crater. These craters on our earth may sometimes become as much as ten or twelve kilometers in diameter--but never over a hundred kilometers in diameter, as are many of the so-called craters of the moon.
"When--untold millions of years ago--our moon broke away from the earth, supposedly where now is the Pacific Ocean, its unformed and whirling mass began its circular journey around the earth in the period of the earth's day, much shorter then than now. There must be a much smaller proportion of the heavy metals in the moon than in our planet. We know this because the average density of the moon is only sixty per cent of the average density of the earth. What happened at the birth of the moon may be compared to the overflowing of a huge ladle of molten steel and slag. The slag comes off first, and with it perhaps a little of the molten steel. After this fiery birth of our moon, its attraction raised at opposite ends of the diameter of tile earth mounds of molten matter of tremendous magnitude and tidal force. At that time the moon itself must have had the general shape of a football with its greatest length pointing to the center of the earth. A tremendous tidal friction was acting, and the moon started on its long spiral journey to where we see it now.
"Millennium followed millennium and the surface of the moon began to cool, its crust finally becoming plastic--exactly as a highly acid slag gradually becomes stiffer and stiffer above the molten mass of steel in a large ladle. This slag--which is a proper name to give the material of which the moon is mostly made--was filled, as are all complex slags, with occluded gases. As the cooling process progressed these gases sought escape, at first from the pressure resulting from a contraction of the moon's crust. The scarcely solid crust of the moon broke often into long and irregular cracks through which the superheated molten material below oozed out. Accompanying this, bubbles--many small, and some of vast dimensions--came slowly to the surface and broke, exactly as one may see them in the cooling slag over molten steel in a ladle.
"With apologies to Banquo for changing a word, I say:
The moon hath bubbles as the water has,
And these are of them.
"The rims of sharp and ragged circular rock we call craters on the moon, when once formed, were too cool to become distorted by the moon's weak gravity. They at length became truly the 'everlasting hills' we now behold."
"Kad," said Jean, "if we get back alive from this trip I am going to see that you lecture before astronomers. I think your ideas have merit, and that the astronomers have much to learn from steel melters. Probably my brain has become weightless like my body, but we have plenty of time to talk so no harm will come if I do express some wild ideas. So here are a few of my notions about the man in the moon--the back of whose head we can now begin to see.
"I am inclined to think that many of the hundred thousand or more craters which have been mapped are nothing more than holes made by meteorites which have pelted the moon. Small meteorites may even now be falling into the moon. Of course, they make no noise when they hit, for sound is impossible where there is no air. I do not think they would make much light either, for there is no oxygen to burn them. The energy with which they strike could hardly produce more than a red glow in the surrounding rock, and this would not be seen through telescopes on the earth."
"How about life on the moon? " I inquired.
"Nonsense, Kad. Even though it is a favorite topic of fiction writers to assume some kind of strange life exists there. To me the moon is more interesting just because it is dead. Its very fixity is its most interesting feature. Not elsewhere does man observe such changelessness: only the moon's aspect alters; its rocks are set for eternity--no water, no air, no sounds. There is nothing like it on our planet."
The sun's rays were now illuminating a considerable area of the moon's surface visible from our position, but there was no softness in the long, black shadows cast by its ragged peaks. It was difficult to suppress the emotions of loneliness and fear which this scene of utter desolation and lifelessness evoked. "Not a living thing," we thought, "besides ourselves, is nearer to us than our earth, now nearly 400,000 kilometers away."
Reflections of this nature were passing through our minds when suddenly Jean said to me, "Kad, look through No. 3 window; you will see a very brilliant point of light. It seems to be only a short distance from us, and it is moving. What can it be?"
I looked and saw it--just a point of sunlight, the same as a bit of mirror sometimes directs to the eye. Then I pointed the telescope at it. I could now observe it as if at less than one-sixtieth the distance. My amazement was matchless--amazement that a chance so strange should bring this object into view; amazement that its like could be in this forbidden region of space! What I saw was a moon-ship, very similar in all external parts to our own. It was moving in the same general direction as ourselves and slightly faster. I noted also its line of motion was somewhat inclined to our course of some minutes it would come quite close to us.
"Jean, I said, "that point of light is a refection of the sun from the polished surface of the Russian moon-ship! It looks through the telescope just like our own. It is impossible that it could be anything else. Here, Jean, take a look at it yourself."
Just as expected, the ship gradually drew until it came not fifty meters from us. It was moving faster than we were and it was easy to conclude that its orbit could not be circular like our own. If it were moving in a circle or an ellipse it would forever stay with the moon, unless human hands altered its course. If it were moving along the path of a parabola it would go and go, to no one knows where in celestial space.
0f course our first thought was of the passengers it might be carrying--or was it perhaps a manless ship sending back to earth its automatically despatched radio messages? Was it carrying living beings like ourselves; or had its fearless pilots been killed by the hazards they had surely encountered?
"If it carries voyagers and they live," said I, "They will surely make some response to any signals we can send them."
"I have it, Kad,'' said Jean. "We can signal with our propulsion rocket in the Morse dots and dashes. Let's try it."
We at once put into effect this excellent suggestion. After several repetitions of these signals with no signs of life returned to us, we concluded that the Russian moon-ship was either a manless ship, or that, if it carried pilots, they were dead. A good reason for believing the ship carried dead passengers was our observation that in its course through space it was moving tail-end forward. It seemed to us unlikely that living beings would choose to move their ship onward in this manner; and the more so that the tail of the ship was not precisely in front, being slanted somewhat to one side, as if no controlling hand were present.
The ship gradually drew away from us and in the course of an hour was lost to view.
"They could not," I remarked, "have been killed in the take-off, for if they had been their ship would not have gotten this far. Most likely a meteor pierced its walls."
"Yes, Kad," said Jean, "the fate we so narrowly escaped has probably overtaken them."
We were able to take many excellent photographs of parts of the moon's surface invisible from earth. We were mildly disappointed, though not surprised, to find that the topography of the other side of the moon differs little from that of its face visible from earth, and then only in minor and unimportant details. We observed and photographed the same types of small and large craters--also level areas which were most likely once seas and lakes of plastic and semi-molten slag. All the mountains and craters of the moon's invisible hemisphere we saw dispersed just as they are over its visible face, with complete irregularity. At no place did we see the slightest evidence of mountain chains such as those one sees in the Andes, the Rockies, and other mountain ranges of the earth. All were scattered broadcast as by mere chance.
"How knife-like sharp," I remarked, "are all the edges of this dead desolation which we are the first to see at close range. Here no frost, no snow, no rain, no air or winds can erode or round off the sharpest rocks, nor bring down the pointed pinnacles of mountains, high now as when first made many millions of years ago."
Our approach to the moon, its surface when observed through our telescope seemingly as close as seventy or eighty kilometers, enabled us to discover one feature of its existence not known to astronomers. The moon, we found, is attended by many tiny satellites which her attraction must have captured from closely passing swarms of celestial meteorites which have chanced to approach her with the right velocity, angle, and distance, and which now continue to move about her center of gravity in orbits of all types. Many others, of course, perhaps aeons back, had plunged into her like projectiles fired from celestial cannon, and, unimpeded by an atmosphere, driven deep holes in her surface rocks. Several of these orbital meteorites, some as large as our load-ship, passed by us at distances alarmingly close. Those which were moving in the same general direction as ourselves we could observe easily, because their velocity was not greatly different from our own. It is our opinion that these attendants of the moon are numerous, but the largest of them is far too small to be discovered with any telescope located on the earth.
Six hours had passed since we began our semi-circular orbit around the moon. The moment was approaching when we should operate our rockets again and thus endeavor to steer our course homeward. Our planned procedure follows: We would first manipulate the steering rockets so that the nose of our load-ship would point toward the earth. This done, we would start the central propulsion rocket to drive us out of the moon's attraction. Then our fall toward the earth would begin, and continue with an increasingly accelerated motion. Our instruments would tell us when we were being more attracted by the earth than by the moon. Not until then would we cease operating our propulsion rocket. It is evident that during this time our load-ship would be moving toward the earth nose first. However, we would have to approach the outer limits of its atmosphere tail-end ahead, for the reason that our parachute--carried in the nose-end of the load-ship--might open behind us and not ahead of us. Thus, at some period of our return, before coming within tile earth's outer atmosphere, it would be necessary to turn our ship end for end. We planned to do this at some early stage of the return journey by manipulation of the four steering rockets.
When at length we should arrive near enough to the earth to reach some extremely thin atmosphere, we would steer our moon-ship so that its direction of motion would become, as nearly as possible, Parallel with the surface of the earth. Having accomplished this, we would set our parachute free. In order to be able to free the parachute we had provided a small bladder filled with compressed air, which had been placed beneath the folds of the parachute silk. Mixed with the air in the bladder was a small percentage of hydrogen, to make the mixture mildly explosive when ignited by an electric spark. At any chosen instant, by pressing a button, we could ignite the explosive mixture and so burst the bladder. The released compressed air would then lift the metal cap of the nose of the load-ship, and at the same time throw the parachute out to the full length of its attachment cords.
If the load-ship was then in a region of atmosphere having any appreciable density, however slight, the parachute would stay filled out and would slowly begin to retard our high speed. Since we would then be moving nearly as fast as when--shot up by the electric gun--we left the earth, it would be fatal to put the parachute in service unless the air were exceedingly thin. Otherwise it would be jerked from its fastenings. We foresaw, therefore, that great caution must be used to release it at the proper instant.
After the parachute began functioning, we anticipated it would reduce our velocity very gradually at first, and that this reduction would cause our ship to approach the surface of the earth progressively, with a continually lessening angle to the vertical. We hoped we would alight softly at that place where chance might take us--perhaps in a polar region; perhaps in mid-ocean; or, perchance more happily on friendly ground.
This carefully planned procedure we soon undertook. We knew it would take us about sixty hours to arrive at the outer reaches of the earth's atmosphere, so we decided to observe--leisurely, but studiously--the changing appearance of our earth as our distance from it became less and less.
What we saw was of extraordinary interest and beauty. Our photographs and descriptions, later published for the world, are too well known to make it worth while to repeat them to any extent in these memoirs. I therefore content myself with a few statements of how our earth appeared as we viewed it from that point in space where the homeward journey began--namely, that place where we ceased operating our propulsion rocket, because the earth's gravity had begun to pull us "down." This occurred just three days after we had left the earth. We now occupied a position in space where the illuminated side of the earth was presented to our view; and we were observing our planet, the friendly home to which we hoped we might return, from a distance of about 350,000 kilometers.
The earth appeared a huge sphere, four times as large as the moon when seen from the earth. It hung in a jet black heaven bespangled with innumerable stars of rare brilliancy and varying in color from red to blue. We viewed the stars through air-free space, and they did not twinkle. While we knew the universe was alive, that is--in all its parts and as a whole--ceaselessly in motion, all we saw appeared to be immutably rigid and fixed. Encased in the prison of our swiftly if failing ship we were entirely weightless and seemed to be without motion.
Reigning over all the glories of heaven, the orb--our earth--was queen. She was not like the moon of somber hue, but garbed in gossamers of delicate shades and many colors. The unobstructed radiance of the sun came reflected back to us from pure white clouds that this Queen of Heaven wore as a gauze-like fabric. We could faintly trace the contour of the Atlantic Ocean; where no clouds covered its surface its color was like the hazy blue of distant wooded mountains. The polar caps of the planet appeared like two inverted white saucers of indefinite outline viewed edgewise. North and South America on our left, with Europe and Africa on our right could be seen in those parts where no clouds hid the land. Their color was a delicate yellowish green. A conspicuous spot round and white as an ivory button gleamed central in the region of the North Atlantic Ocean, locatable by its bluish color. This white spot, we decided, was the reflection of the sun's rays from the top surface of clouds associated with a huge cyclonic storm. We could detect some yellowish and brownish patches both on the eastern and western limbs of the earth, which we attributed to desert areas. While for the moment we could observe no alterations in the colors or the markings which the earth's surface presented, it is certain that if we could but have viewed the earth from our position for a longer time we would have seen endless changes in its patterns and hues, slowly coming and again dissolving into others. The earth, seen from near the moon, is a gorgeous object--one which our fortunate eyes were the first to behold.
Our planned procedure worked out smoothly and according to schedule. Finally Jean said to me:
"Kad, our descent is now nearly vertical to The surface of the earth. We are going to come down gently, in daylight and on land."
"It is our reward, Jean," I remarked, "for time spent in making many experiments with trial equipment and parachutes. Didn't the silk umbrella open beautifully? When at length it fully filled out we hardly felt a jerk. I see by the altimeter, which is now registering, that at this moment we are but thirty kilometers up. It will not be long now before we land; but where?"
"I think," said Jean, "that we are somewhere over the western section of the United States."
A few moments, and the land, a country of plains and mountains, appeared to be coming slowly upward to meet us in friendly greeting. Then came the bump, but not so hard as to cause us harm. We unfastened the door in the side of our moon-ship and crawled out. We had landed on sandy soil of desert aspect, with sagebrush and mesquite growing here and there, and many mountains near by. I read my watch. It was 12:35 p.m. by New York time, The day was July 4,1961. We had lived--lived I rejoice to say--for nearly six days cramped in our load-ship. During most of this time we had dwelt in a place and existed in a state where we did not feel the eternal pull of gravity which attracts all things, the living and the dead alike. Now the full weights of our bodies again pressed on the soles of our feet. We felt strangely heavy--burdened. Jean spoke first.
"Kad, your splendid imagination and persistence have won out. We are safely back--but where are we?"
"Fate and chance, Jean," I replied, "are certainly beyond human comprehension. Do you see those buildings and chimneys not three hundred meters from here? Over there is an extensive gold mine being actively worked. I know every square meter of this place almost as well as I know the game farm. Where those busy structures stand is the very spot at which I discovered the lost Apache mine. Stub Brink and I explored all this territory round about. We are in Cochise County Arizona. But see those airplanes approaching us from a half-dozen directions! We must have been sighted before we landed. We shall soon be interviewed, and I suppose we shall be dragged before the microphone to tell our story to the world."
Life is certainly full of surprises, and they are not all to be found in fiction. The first plane to come close to us I at once recognized as my own. It began to circle; and presently, with skilled hands at the controls, dropped gracefully to ground quite near us. Two smallish figures emerged. They came running to us. Their names, their faces, their movements in another brief moment were to affect both Jean and me more than any experience we had had in the last few days, for the two human beings who fell into our arms, and whose beauty not even an aviators garb could cloak, were Gertrude and Marie --our darling wives were first on hand to greet us.
"Tell us" Jean exclaimed, "how you ever managed to get here ahead of that flock of reporters still in the sky?"
It developed that Marie and Gertrude were flying to Palomar Mountain, northeastward from San Diego by about seventy kilometers, to beg from the Observatory staff the privilege of looking through the monster telescope with its five-meter reflector, in the hope that they might see our speck of a ship as a point of light against the dark background of the moon. By mere chance they had arrived close to the very spot and at the very instant we landed.
Within five minutes after Marie and Gertrude in my plane had dropped down to greet us, many others began to arrive. They were mostly reporters, each with keen rivalry striving to be the first to get our story. But I shall not pad my narrative by describing the rapid, but not unusual happenings of the next few hours and days. Back in the twenties when it was a daring achievement to "fly the Atlantic," news gatherers in the same way flocked to the place of landing; wires and radio broadcast the story. Early editions of the press under big headlines printed the news; parades followed --thousands filling the air with fluttering bits of paper. The heroes, some of the moment only, were received with great acclaim. Still later came honors and awards, and certain selected ones received the highest award given by the National Geographic Society.
When I write here that human curiosity seldom changes, that our achievement was of such nature that it mightily affected the imagination of the peoples of the world, and that in greater degree receptions and honors given to the great aviators of early days were bestowed on us--though little to our liking --I have set down all I wish to express upon this matter.