Ice on the Moon: Score One for Tintin!

By Stephen Cass | July 10, 2008 11:55 am

Cover image of Explorers on the MoonAs reported by my fellow DISCOVER blogger Eliza Strickland, researchers believe that the moon may have considerable amounts of water ice. But Tintan fans have known this since 1954, which is when Hergé published the second half of his Destination Moon two-parter, Explorers on the Moon: during a moonwalk, Tintin discovers a cave with a floor of ice.

Okay, okay, admittedly the ice suggested by Eliza’s researchers isn’t just lying around — it’s bound into lunar rocks. But it is another prop for the Destination Moon books, which have held up surprisingly well over the decades, especially given that they were published three years before Sputnik I and 15 years before the Apollo moon landing.

Written with a desire to get the science and technology right (for example, in the first book, Destination Moon, an explanation of how a nuclear reactor burns uranium fuel is given that was not materially different from the version I found in physics textbooks years later, and which was somewhat better presented), the books feature a nuclear-powered rocket that uses Von Braun’s original Direct Mode mission plan to get to the moon (no mucking about with lunar landers, or rendevousing with booster stages in Earth orbit when you have a nuclear engine!). Acceleration couches support the crew, whiskey forms into little balls under its own surface tension in zero gravity, and reduced lunar gravity complicates walking.

Of course, there are lots of inaccuracies one could pick at, but to my mind Tintin’s discovery of ice is emblematic of why the books hold up so well. Hergé could easily have chosen to have Tintan discover the ruins of a lost civilization, or giant mushrooms, or any one of a number of things that are a lot more dramatic and cartoonogenic than ice. But by making the discovery of ice the scientific highlight of the mission, Hergé grounds Tintan’s fantastic adventures in reality, and gives the books the ring of truth.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Space Flight
MORE ABOUT: ice, Moon, Tintin

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Links to this Post

  1. a rocket to the moon | July 10, 2008
  2. TEST Tintin Movie » Blog Archive » Tintin Round-Up | August 16, 2008

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