Jules Verne is often referred to as the father of science fiction genre. He is the second most translated writer of all time (behind Agatha Christie), and his writings on science have sparked the imaginations of future generations. In his classic novel From the Earth to the Moon, published in 1865, Jules Verne described a crew of three people who launched themselves in a projectile using a cannon, hoping to land on the Moon.
It sounded like a scene straight from a Three Stooges skit, but the amazing fact about Verne’s story was that it was able to eerily predict the historic event that placed the very first men on the moon – more than a century before it actually happened. Verne used real calculations in the book which were found to be accurate for a time when nobody had even considered such ideas.
Around the time of Apollo 8 and 11 missions,people noticed that Verne had made an astonishing number of correct predictions about man’s future trips to space. The dimensions of his projectile are very close to those of Apollo 11, and both the crews in his story and in Apollo 11 consisted of 3 people.
Jules Verne’s “Columbiad” (from which the command module Columbia was named after) launched the three heroes at a site in Tampa, Florida – the same state where the Apollo missions were launched. After considering 12 sites in Texas and Florida, the southern city of Tampa was Verne’s choice for his launch site. More than a hundred years later, it was NASA’s turn to choose from 7 launch sites, arriving at the decision to launch at Merritt Island, Florida – a two hour ride from Tampa.
Lastly, Verne’s fictional spacecraft introduced the concept retro-rockets, an engine designed to decelerate a speeding rocket. More than a century later, Apollo 11 would actually employ these retro-rockets to allow them to slow down before landing on the lunar surface.