"This category [science fiction] excludes rocket ships that make U-turns, serpent men of Neptune that lust after human maidens, and stories by authors who flunked their Boy Scout merit badge tests in descriptive astronomy."
- Robert Heinlein
||An antigravity substance with sufficient power to propel a space ship from the Earth to Mars.
How might it be possible to travel from the Earth to another planet?
I had satisfied myself that
only one thing needful was as yet wholly beyond the reach and even the
proximate hopes of science. Human invention could furnish as yet no
motive power that could fulfil the main requirement of the
problem--uniform or constantly increasing motion in vacuo--motion
through a region affording no resisting medium. This must be a
repulsive energy capable of acting through an utter void. Man,
animals, birds, fishes move by repulsion applied at every moment. In
air or water, paddles, oars, sails, fins, wings act by repulsion
exerted on the fluid element in which they work. But in space there is
no such resisting element on which repulsion can operate. I needed a
repulsion which would act like gravitation through an indefinite
distance and in a void--act upon a remote fulcrum, such as might be
the Earth in a voyage to the Moon, or the Sun in a more distant
journey. As soon, then, as the character of the apergic force was made
known to me, its application to this purpose seized on my mind.
Experiment had proved it possible, by the method described at the
commencement of this record, to generate and collect it in amounts
practically unlimited. The other hindrances to a voyage through space
were trivial in comparison with that thus overcome; there were
difficulties to be surmounted, not absent or deficient powers in
nature to be discovered.
|...For obvious reasons, those who possessed the secret of the
Apergy had never dreamed of applying it in the manner I proposed.
It had seemed to them little more than a curious secret of nature,
perhaps hardly so much, since the existence of a repulsive force in
the atomic sphere had been long suspected and of late certainly
ascertained, and its preponderance is held to be the characteristic of
the gaseous as distinguished from the liquid or solid state of matter.
Till lately, no means of generating or collecting this force in large
quantity had been found. The progress of electrical science had solved
this difficulty; and when the secret was communicated to me, it
possessed a value which had never before belonged to it...
At 12 P.M., or 24h by
the chronometer, I directed a current of the requisite strength into
the eastward conductor, which I had previously pointed to the Earth's
surface, but a little short of the extreme terrestrial horizon, as I
calculated it. At 1 A.M. I found myself, judging by the stars, exactly
where I wished to be, and nearly stationary as regarded the Earth. I
instantly arrested the eastward current, detaching that conductor from
the apergion; and, directing the whole force of the current into the
downward conductor, I had the pleasure of seeing that, after a very
little adjustment of the helm, the stars remained stationary in the
mirror of the metacompass, showing that I had escaped from the
influence of the Earth's rotation.
|From Across the Zodiac,
by Percy Greg.
Published by Unknown in 1880
Additional resources -
For a wearable version of an antigravity device, see the gravity web from Frank Herbert's 1969 novel Whipping Star.
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