Space And Mars


Never before had the travellers observed the stars and planets

under such favourable conditions. No air or clouds intervened,

and as the Callisto did not revolve on its axis there was no

necessity for changing the direction of the glasses. After an

hour of this interesting work, however, as it was already late at

the longitude they had left on earth, and as they knew they had

many days in space before them, they prep
red to go to bed. When

ready, they had only to pull down the shades; for, as apergy was

not applied to them, but only to the Callisto, they still looked

upon the floor as down, and closed the heavy curtains to have

night or darkness. They found that the side of the Callisto

turned constantly towards the sun was becoming very warm, the

double-toughened glass windows making it like a greenhouse; but

they consoled themselves with the thought that the sun's power on

them was hourly becoming less, and they felt sure the double

walls and thick upholstery would protect them almost anywhere

within the solar system from the intense cold of space.

"We could easily have arranged," said Ayrault, for night and day

on alternate sides of the Callisto by having strips of metal

arranged spirally on the outside as on the end of an arrow.

These would have started us turning as slowly as we like, since

we passed through the atmosphere at a comparatively low rate of


"I am afraid," said Cortlandt, "the motion, however slow, would

have made us dizzy. It would be confusing to see the heavens

turning about us, and it would interfere with using the glasses."

The base and one side of the Callisto had constant sunshine,

while the other side and the dome were in the blackest night.

This dome, on account of its shape, sky windows, and the

completeness with which it could be isolated, was an ideal

observatory, and there was seldom a time during their waking

hours for the rest of the journey when it was not occupied by

one, two, or all the observers.

"There is something marvellous," said Cortlandt, "about the

condition of space. Its absolute cold is appalling, apparently

because there is nothing to absorb heat; yet we find the base of

this material projectile uncomfortably warm, though, should we

expose a thermometer in the shade in front, we know it would show

a temperature of three hundred to four hundred degrees below

zero--were the instrument capable of recording it."

Artificial darkness having been obtained, the travellers were

soon asleep, Bearwarden's dreams being regaled with thoughts of

his company's triumph; Ayrault's, naturally, with visions of

Sylvia; while Cortlandt frequently started up, thinking he had

already made some great astronomical discovery.

About 9 A. M., according to seventy-fifth meridian time, the

explorers awoke feeling greatly refreshed. The tank in which the

liquefied oxygen was kept automatically gave off its gas so

evenly that the air remained normal, while the lime contained in

cups absorbed the carbon dioxide as fast as they exhaled it.

They had darkened those windows through which the sun was

actually pouring, for, on account of the emptiness of the

surrounding ether and consequent absence of diffusion of light,

nothing but the inky blackness of space and the bright stars

looked in at the rest. On raising the shades they got an idea of

their speed. A small crescent, smaller than the familiar moon,

accompanied by one still tinier, was all that could be seen of

the earth and its satellite.

"We must," said Bearwarden, "be moving at the rate of nearly a

million miles an hour, from the way we have travelled."

"We must be doing fully a million," replied Cortlandt, "for by

this time we are pretty well in motion, having got a tremendous

start when so near the moon, with it and the earth in line."

By steering straight for Jupiter, instead of for the place it

would occupy ten days later, they knew they would swing past, for

the giant planet, being in rapid motion, would advance; but they

did not object to this, since it would give them a chance to

examine their new world in case they wished to do so before

alighting; while, if they preferred to land at once, they could

easily change their course by means of the moons, the fourth,

from which their car was named, being the one that they knew

would be of most use. Their tremendous speed showed them they

should have time for exploration on their arrival, and that they

would reach their destination sooner than they had expected. The

apergetic force being applied, as we have seen, only to the

Callisto, just as power in starting is exerted on a carriage or

railway car and only through it to the passengers, Ayrault and

his companions had no unusual sensation except loss of weight,

for, when they were so far from the earth, its attraction was

very slight, and no other planet was near enough to take its

place. After breakfast, wishing to reach the dome, and realizing

that it would be unnecessary to climb, each in turn gave a slight

spring and was obliged to put up his hands to avoid striking the

roof. In the cool quiet of the dark dome it was difficult to

believe that only twenty feet away the sun was shining with such

intensity upon the metal base as to make it too hot on the inside

to touch without gloves.

The first thing that attracted their attention was the size and

brilliance of Mars. Although this red planet was over forty

million miles from the earth when they started, they calculated

that it was less than thirty million miles from them now, or five

millions nearer than it had ever been to them before. This

reduction in distance, and the clearness of the void through

which they saw it, made it a splendid sight, its disk showing

clearly. From hour to hour its size and brightness increased,

till towards evening it looked like a small, full moon, the sun

shining squarely upon it. They calculated that on the course

they were moving they should pass about nine hundred thousand

miles to the right or behind it, since it was moving towards

their left. They were interested to see what effect the mass of

Mars would have on the Callisto, and saw here a chance of still

further increasing their speed. Notwithstanding its tremendous

rate, they expected to see the Callisto swerve from its straight

line and move towards Mars, whose orbital speed of nine hundred

miles a minute they thought would take it out of the Callisto's

way, so that no actual collision would occur even if their

air-ship were left to her own devices.

Towards evening they noticed through their glasses that several

apparently island peaks in the southern hemisphere, which was

turned towards them, became white, from which they concluded that

a snow-storm was in progress. The south polar region was also

markedly glaciated, though the icecap was not as extensive as

either of those at the poles of the earth.

"As the Martian winters must be fully as severe as ours," said

Cortlandt, "on account of their length, the planet's distance

from the sun, and the twenty-seven and a half degrees inclination

of its axis, we can account for the smallness of its ice-caps

only by the fact that its oceans cover but one fourth of its

surface instead of three quarters, as on the earth, and there is

consequently a smaller evaporation and rain and snow-fall."

They were too much interested to think of sleeping that night,

and so, after dining comfortably returned to their observatory.

When within four million miles of Mars the Callisto began to

swerve perceptibly, its curve, as when near the moon beginning

with a spiral. They swung on unconcernedly, however, knowing

they could check their approach at any time. Soon Mars appeared

to have a diameter ten times as great as that of the moon, and

promised shortly to occupy almost one side of their sky.

"We must be on the lookout for the satellites," said Cortlandt;

"a collision with either would be worse than a wreck on a desert


They therefore turned their glasses in the direction of the


"Until Prof. Hall, at Washington, discovered the two satellites

in 1877," he continued, "Mars was supposed to be without moons.

The outer one, Deimos, is but six miles in diameter, and revolves

about its primary in thirty hours and eighteen minutes, at a

distance of fourteen thousand six hundred miles. As it takes but

little longer to complete a revolution than Mars does to rotate

on its axis, it remains in the Martial sky one hundred and

thirty-two hours between rising and setting, passing through all

the phases from new moon to full and back again four times; that

is, it swings four times around Mars before going below the

horizon. It is one of the smallest bodies discovered with a

telescope. The inner one, Phobos, is considerably larger, having

a diameter of about twenty miles. It is but twenty-seven hundred

miles from Mars's surface, and completes its revolution in seven

hours and thirty-eight minutes, which is shorter than any other

known period, Jupiter's nearest moon being the next, with eleven

hours and fifty- nine minutes. It thus revolves in less than a

third of the time Mars takes to rotate, and must consequently

rise in the west and set in the east, as it is continually

running ahead of the surface of the planet, though the sun and

all the other stars rise and set on Mars in the same way as on

the earth."

When about fifteen thousand miles from Mars, they sighted Deimos

directly ahead, and saw that they should pass on its left--i. e.,

behind--for it was moving across them. The sun poured directly

upon it, making it appear full and showing all its features.

There were small unevennesses on the surface, apparently seventy

or a hundred feet high, which were the nearest approach to

mountains, and they ran in ridges or chains. There were also

unmistakable signs of volcanic action, the craters being large

compared with the size of the planet, but shallow. They saw no

signs of water, and the blackness of the shadows convinced them

there was no air. They secured two instantaneous photographs of

the little satellite as the Callisto swept by, and resumed their

inspection of Mars. They noticed red and brownish patches on the

peaks that had that morning turned white, from which they

concluded that the show had begun to melt under the warm spring

sun. This strengthened the belief they had already formed, that

on account of its twenty-seven and a half degrees inclination the

changes in temperature on Mars must be great and sudden. So

interested were they with this, that they did not at first see a

large and bright body moving rapidly on a course that converged

with theirs.

"We must be ready to repel boarders," said Bearwarden, observing

it for the first time and fixing his glass upon it. "That must

be Phobos."

Not ten miles off they beheld Mars's inner moon, and though their

own speed caused them to overtake and rush by it like a

whirlwind, the satellite's rapid motion in its orbit, in a course

temporarily almost parallel with theirs, served to give them a

chance the better to examine it. Here the mountain ranges were

considerably more conspicuous than on Deimos, and there were

boulders and loose stones upon their slopes, which looked as if

there might at some time have been frost and water on its

surface; but it was all dry now, neither was there any air. The

evidences of volcanic action were also plainly visible, while a

noticeable flattening at the poles showed that the little body

had once rotated rapidly on its axis, though whether it did so

still they had not time to ascertain. When abreast of it they

were less than two miles distant, and they secured several

instantaneous impressions, which they put aside to develop later.

As the radius of Phobos's circle was far shorter than that of the

parabolic curve they were making, it began to draw away, and was

rapidly left behind. Applying the full apergetic force to Mars

and the larger moon, they shot away like an arrow, having had

their speed increased by the planet's attraction while

approaching it, and subsequently by repulsion.

"Either of those," said Bearwarden, looking back at the little

satellites, "would be a nice yacht for a man to explore space on.

He would also, of course, need a sun to warm him, if he wished to

go beyond this system, but that would not have to be a large

affair--in fact, it might be smaller than the planet, and could

revolve about it like a moon."

"Though a sun of that size," replied Cortlandt, "might retain its

heat for the time you wished to use it, the planet part would be

nothing like as comfortable as what we have here, for it would be

very difficult to get enough air-pressure to breathe on so small

a body, since, with its slight gravitation-pull, to secure

fifteen pounds to the square inch, or anything like it, the

atmosphere would have to extend thousands of miles into space, so

that on a cloudy day you would be in darkness. It would be

better, therefore, to have such a sun as you describe and

accompany it in a yacht or private car like this, well stocked

with oxygen and provisions. When passing through meteoric swarms

or masses of solid matter, collision with which is the most

serious risk we run, the car could follow behind its sun instead

of revolving around it, and be kept from falling into it by

partially reversing the attraction. As the gravitation of so

small a sun would be slight, counteracting it for even a

considerable time would take but little from the batteries."

"There are known to be several unclaimed masses," added Ayrault,

"with diameters of a few hundred yards, revolving about the earth

inside the orbit of the moon. If in some way two of these could

be brought into sufficiently violent collision, they would become

luminous and answer very well; the increase in bulk as a result

of the consolidation, and the subsequent heat, about serving to

bring them to the required size. Whenever this sun showed spots

and indications of cooling, it could be made to collide with the

solid head of some comet, or small asteroid, till its temperature

was again right; while if, as a result of these accretions, it

became unwieldy, it could be caused to rotate with sufficient

rapidity on its axis to split, and we should have two suns

instead of one."

"Bravo!" said Bearwarden. "There is no limit to what can be

done. The idea of our present trip would have seemed more

chimerical to people a hundred years ago than this new scheme

appears now."

Thus they sat and talked, or studied maps and star- charts, or

the stars themselves, while the hours quickly passed and they

shot through space. They had now a straight stretch of over

three hundred million miles, and had to cross the orbits of

innumerable asteroids on the way. The apparent size of the sun

had by this time considerably decreased, and the interior of the

Callisto was no longer uncomfortably warm. They divided the day

into twenty-four hours from force of habit, and drew the shades

tightly during what they considered night, while Bearwarden

distinguished himself as a cook.