Per Easier Ad Astra
Having used the above words to open his speech today, Professor Ovis Jopp, the lean, seven-foot-two, green-bearded ‘Sage of Trondheim’ immediately apologised to the UK’s Royal Air Force for tweaking its motto, Per Ardua Ad Astra (By Hard Work To The Stars). He then revealed that he had solved the problem of travelling to Mars by what he called the short-haul route.
Sipping greengage wine, Jopp gave details of his experiment. “Like all great advances, it is elementary,” he said. “At its closest, Mars is, give or take the odd yard, about 35 million miles from us. Why is it thought necessary to undertake a journey of hundreds of millions of miles to get there? The answer is that earlier efforts involved the use of planetary motions to send probes on a long slow journey, because it is impracticable to make the vast fuel tanks needed to keep a spacecraft constantly under power during a direct trip. The ingenuity of my scheme lay in my realisation that the propulsive material could be burned here on the Earth.”
After pausing to let the audience grasp his idea, Jopp went on: “I decided that the best plan was to continuously pump fuel into a centrifugal machine. The site was a farm near Lillehammer. As propellant I used my newly-invented Joppanol. For the apparatus I adapted a conventional wind generator, painted green. I removed the blades and substituted a small model of a spaceship on one end of a thick chain, the other end of which was fastened to the generator’s hub. Thanks to practically unlimited fuel capacity, I was able to accelerate the spaceship to a speed which I calculated was well above the Earth’s escape velocity of seven miles per second. In effect, the construction is an immensely powerful slingshot. Believe me, we shall soon be reaching for the stars.”
Following thunderous applause, Jopp continued: “On reaching eight miles per second, I throttled down. However, there is no doubt that a larger version of my equipment will enable us reach Mars in a small fraction of the time hitherto regarded as a minimum. To provide suitable anchorage for my full-scale test I need a high sheer cliff. There is an excellent site near Geiranger. I may need to drain the fjord, but that is a minor obstacle. This is the greatest ever leap in the history of space travel. The system could be extended to take us far beyond Pluto and the planets Ovisius and Joppius, which I discovered a few months ago, though I did not publicise this.”
Apprehension was expressed by some scientists, in particular Jopp’s most vocal adversary, the short, globular, hairless ‘Swedish Savant’, Dr Terps Dunderklap. Interviewed outside a Kristiansand female nudist camp, he raged: “If this madman is not stopped, he will kill all of us. An error of one millisecond and his spaceship will go down instead of up, boring straight through the Earth. The oaf does not understand that even if he were right in principle, there is no sense in a vertical mounting. A horizontal arrangement performs better, though never well enough.”
Calming down slightly, Dunderklap continued: “I was far ahead of Jopp in this field, proving last year that the necessary impetus cannot be produced. I modified a fairground carousel, to which I attached a six-foot spacecraft on a length of ultra-strong twine. As fuel I used my own Dunderol. The test results accorded exactly with my predictions. At the speed of just over five miles per second, the craft broke loose, destroying two telephone poles and a barn. By the way, I notice that Jopp does not tell us how his ark is to return from Mars. What about that, brainbox?”
This seems like a good time for us to keep our heads down.
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