[Splashdown] Jules Verne is one of those authors who make you wonder if time machines have been invented after all. The image to the left is an illustration from a turn-of-the-century Hungarian edition of Voyage around the Moon; if I am not mistaken, this lithograph was taken from an even earlier French-language edition.

Do you see what I mean? If you have seen the recent movie Apollo 13, you know that the similarities are unmistakable. The masts of that ship in the background: are those sailing masts or do they hold a multitude of radar and radio antennae? There are no helicopters visible, but is it because they are just off the edge of the picture? And shall I mention that the splashdown point in Verne's book was just a few miles away from the actual splashdown point of Apollo 8 ...

Oh yes, and Verne's moon capsule was launched from Florida, just a few miles from the actual location of Cape Canaveral; its launch was preceded by an actual by-the-second countdown using an accurate electric clock; its mass, approximately 20,000 pounds, was very close to the actual mass of the Apollo command module; it had three astronauts on board (two of them American and one Frenchman, in the spirit of international cooperation); it used a chemical system to generate oxygen and another to extract carbon dioxide during the trip (there was no mention of human wastes though, which is quite understandable for a novel written in the prudish 1860's); and it made a slingshot trip (named Free Return Trajectory a century later) around the Moon in order to return to the Earth.

Doesn't it make you muse about the possibility that perhaps Verne has seen it all?