Destination Moon (comics)
Cover of the English edition
|Series||The Adventures of Tintin|
|Published in||Tintin magazine|
|Date of publication||30 March 1950 – 7 September 1950 / 9 April 1952 – 22 October 1952|
|Preceded by||Land of Black Gold (1950)|
|Followed by||Explorers on the Moon (1954)|
Destination Moon (French: Objectif Lune) is the sixteenth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Tintin and Captain Haddock receive an invitation from Professor Calculus to come to Syldavia, where Calculus is in the country working on a top-secret project in a state-of-the-art secure government facility. It is the first part of one of the four two-book stories in the Tintin series, the other part being Explorers on the Moon.
It is one of two latter-day Tintin stories (the other being The Castafiore Emerald) that is not structured as a straightforward adventure story; instead, it is an episodic sequence of events surrounding the development of a moon rocket. There is, however, a subplot involving espionage to hold the episodes together.
Tintin's friend Professor Calculus has been secretly commissioned by the Syldavian government to build a rocket ship that will fly from the Earth to the Moon. Tintin and Captain Haddock agree to join the expedition, even though Captain Haddock shows considerable reluctance. Upon arriving in Syldavia, they are taken to the Sprodj Atomic Research Centre, called simply "the Centre", headed by Mr. Baxter, an engineer. They are escorted by the "ZEPO" (Zekrett Politzs), a special security force charged with protecting the centre from outside threats. While working for Syldavia, Calculus is assisted by engineer Frank Wolff, who works in the centre, and accompanies Tintin and Haddock around the facility. Professor Calculus reveals that the Syldavian government invited nuclear physicists from other countries to work at the centre, which was created four years earlier when large uranium deposits were discovered in the area. The centre is entirely dedicated to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Calculus heads the centre's astronautics department, since this is his primary area of expertise.
An unmanned subscale prototype of the rocket — the "X-FLR6", resembling a V-2 rocket — is launched on a circumlunar mission to photograph the far side of the Moon, as well as test Professor Calculus's revolutionary nuclear rocket engine. Before the launch, the centre's radar picks up a plane which slips through the security cordon and drops three paratroopers, though one of them is killed when his parachute fails to open. Thomson and Thompson are mistaken for them, but are released. Tintin's curiosity is piqued and he sets out to look for them. He intercepts a paratrooper receiving information from an unguarded vent located on the cliffs near the centre, but is ambushed and shot. He had asked Haddock to wait at the other side of the vent, but Haddock is knocked unconscious when the lights are turned out. Thomson and Thompson have also gone to the corridor, but in the darkness they find Wolff, who claims he followed Haddock. Haddock wakes and tells them to find Tintin, who was wounded by the shot. This incident confirms the Centre's suspicions that the paratroopers were agents of a foreign power, but Tintin fears that any efforts to trace the leaked information would be futile, guessing that the intruder simply made copies of whatever information he passed on. On the day of the launch, the rocket successfully orbits the moon, but it is then intercepted by the foreign power; the leaked information concerned the rocket's radio control. However, Tintin had anticipated this and asked Calculus to rig a self-destruct mechanism for the rocket. The centre has no choice but to use it and destroy the rocket. As the compound is heavily secured, there must have been a spy who leaked information through the grille, but no suspects are found.
Despite this setback, preparations are made for the moon trip—the rocket's engine still having been confirmed as viable even if they were unable to access the data it gathered—and the equipment is tested. While testing one of the space suits, Captain Haddock becomes frustrated and accuses Calculus of "acting the goat" (a line that would become famous in the Tintin series), causing Calculus to go into a fit of anger. He leads them out of the complex—breaking every security rule in the book—and to the site of the moon rocket which is in near completion. While taking Haddock and Tintin through the rocket's interior, he falls down a ladder and suffers temporary memory loss. Haddock caringly — and unwittingly — attempts to help him recover, using British redcoat soldier costumes, trick cameras, water guns, fire crackers, and a ghost costume. When his attempts elicit no reaction whatsoever, Haddock angrily says he will not be "acting the goat", which makes Calculus recover his memory in a fit of rage.
Preparations are made for a manned flight, and the full-scale rocket is completed. Finally, on 3 June 1952, at 1:34 am, the rocket takes off for the Moon with Tintin, Haddock, Calculus, Wolff and Tintin's dog Snowy aboard.
A first version of the script was written by Bernard Heuvelmans, advisor to Hergé during the creation of the moon exploration albums. Heuvelmans' script took place in the United States and included Professor Decimus Phostle from The Shooting Star, this time as a villain. Phostle steals the plans for Calculus's rocket and sells them in order to buy a diamond for the actress Rita Hayworth. After drawing two pages of this story, in which a radio interview with Calculus goes wrong because of his deafness, Hergé dropped the script in favour of his own storyline.
Representation of space travel
Destination Moon was written 19 years before the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing and several years before manned space flight. Hergé was keen to ensure that the books were scientifically accurate, based on ideas about space flight then available (see above). Professor Calculus explains that his nuclear rocket engine essentially works like a slowly exploding nuclear fission bomb. The engine is able to withstand the extreme heat and radiation, since it is made of "calculon", a silicon-based, extremely heat-resistant material also invented by the professor. However, the deadly radioactivity produced by the engine would pollute the launch and landing area, hence the rocket is also equipped with a conventional chemical rocket engine. (The X-FLR6 is said to use aniline and nitric acid propellants.) The nuclear engine is only used above 800 km altitude in space and produces a constant acceleration of one Earth gravity.