Picking up where From the Earth to the Moon left off this sequel follows the first lunar explorers in a dangerous journey around the moon. The sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. The world's first 3 space travellers, Impey Barbicane, Michael Ardan and Captain Nicholl attempt to become the first men on the moon, but their journey is fraught with mishap.
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On earth the 3 travellers are sealed into the projectile along with Ardan's dogs Diana and Satellite waiting for the giant gun to fire them into space. When it happens they all blackout. Ardan is the first to recover, all three are shaken and Barbicane is bleeding but thankfully there are no serious injuries. This means that Nicholl has lost all his bets with Barbicane and he pays up without complaint. But they immediately find themselves in danger as an asteroid whizzes past them. Unfortunately, Satellite has been badly injured during the take-off and dies on their second day. They eject his body out into space.
They pass the travel time in scientific discussion concerning all aspects of their journey and what they may find when they arrive at the moon. Suddenly they find themselves overcome by some unseen force, setting them deliriously singing and dancing. At first they are mystified but then realise the oxygen mix in the projectile is too strong owing to the stopcock being only turned half off.
As they reach the neutral point where both earth and the moon's gravity is affecting them they become temporarily weightless, a unique experience that all enjoy. But joy is replaced by worry when Barbicane realises that they are off course, owing the minor gravitational pull of the meteor that passed them. It is now certain they will miss the moon.
Since there is nothing they can do the three men decide stoically to make the best of their unique opportunity and study the moon closer than any man has. As they do so they begin to see possible signs of civilisation. Caught in the moon's gravity they now begin to traverse the dark side of the moon in increasing cold. On the dark side they can of course see little, save an active volcano. When they emerge back into light Ardan is certain he can see the ruins of a city on the surface, though his companions are not so sure. They enter into a scientific discussion of the possibilities of life having once existed on the moon and must conclude that they can come to no definite conclusion.
To the bafflement of Barbicane the projectile now seems to be leaving the lunar orbit and heading back to earth. They now wonder what will happen when they again reach the neutral point; will they continue to earth, head back to the moon or drift forever in space? They realise that the projectile's landing rockets, can be used to influence this and all decide that they still want to go to the moon. But the plan fails and they seem destined to crash into the earth at a velocity of seven miles a second, killing them all. The men are stoic in the face of this inevitability.
Back on earth, sailors on a ship sailing off the Pacific coast are stunned as a bright ball impacts into the water beside them. Word reaches J. T. Marston (Barbicane's close friend) and he speeds to the site with members of the Gun Club. But finding the projectile at the bottom of the sea is not easy and the men start to lose hope, all except Marston who urges them on. It is Marston who realises that given its size and weight the projectile would have floated after its initial impact. The adventurers are found and given a hero's reception.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like the scientific ambition of this story. Verne is writing in the 1860s and using the best knowledge available to him. However, I will admit that the book is a little too eager to discuss all these facts.
Best scene in story:
I like the scene in which Marston, who has been waiting for news of his friends, learns of their return to earth. Marston is a very engaging and larger than life character.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Barbicans's need to explain everything that happens to them, his curiosity overwhelming his fear.