Friday, July 22, 2011

Forgotten Classic -Destination Moon (Tin tin) & Nuclear Powered Rocket Ships

With the new Tin Tin Movie Trailer making the rounds. I thought I might shed a bit of  light on one of the most advanced little pieces of science fiction that has come out during its time. This little book fell into my lap when I was a wee lad of 10 years old.
 The book plot goes something like this:
Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock are suddenly called by Professor Calculus to the Sprodj Atomic Research Centre in Syldavia. They are amazed to find the Professor planning a space rocket; and Tintin and his friends are unaware of the dangers that await them. Despite the mishaps, the adventure sets off on the most hazardous journey ever undertaken by man.
 The basic plot does nothing for the book really. The book was part of a 4 part multi story arch draw out over 4 books. Destination Moon was written 19 years before the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing and several years before manned space flight. The real star of the book isn't TinTin but the nuclear powered rocket! That's right A NUCLEAR POWERED ROCKET 19 YEARS BEFORE APOLLO FLEW ! 
 Here's a break down of the propulsion scheme of the rocket from Wiki 

Hergé's rocket has two propulsion systems — a conventional liquid-fueled chemical rocket engine for launching (and also for deceleration upon landing), and an engine for the spacebound part (>800 km altitude) of the journey, described as being nuclear-powered. The depicted rationale for this solution is to avoid contaminating takeoff and landing sites with radioactive exhaust products. Today, nuclear power is not widespread in space propulsion because of another safety risk, namely that of the reactor core or other radioactive materials falling back to Earth upon accidental or programmed destruction of the spacecraft. Hergé's rocket most closely resembles a nuclear thermal rocket, such as the design tested in the United States NERVA project. One of the reasons for the cancellation of the NERVA project was the risk of radioactive particles being released in the rocket exhaust, so Hergé's chemical/nuclear combination makes sense.
Currently, nuclear power is only being used for space probe propulsion. These, however, are nuclear electric rockets (nuclear-powered ion drives), which do not generate enough thrust to lift a heavy spacecraft off a planet. They give the probe a very small acceleration over a very long period of time, ideal for long-distance travel by an unmanned craft. This is, however, a completely different system to the one proposed by Hergé.
The book shows gravity being generated through the constant acceleration of the moon rocket. This is impossible with the chemical rockets in use today, which can only maintain their thrust for a few minutes before running out of fuel, but it could conceivably be achieved using high-powered nuclear pulse propulsion.

I was pretty much drawn in by Herge's world at this point. The only other person who entranced me was 
Chesley Bonestell whose artwork defined planets & astronomy for me for over a decade. Herge's rocket ship blew me away 

As you can see both images are very similar & the subject matter is dead on. There are some vast differences between Herge's work & the Apollo moon landing. That really all gets hashed out right  Explorers_on_the_Moon

Want to see a complete breakdown of this bad boy check it out Here 
The idea of using nuclear powered rocket ships was fully explored in the 1950s movie Destination Moon & many of the same themes were used such as foreign powers each vying for space & the idea of the moon having military value.  Destination Moon is filled with the red paranoia of the 50s. Tin tin's books are filled with the wonder of scientific exploration & achievement 
 You can watch Destination Moon right on youtube for more nuclear powered rocket ship ideas! 
Nuclear Rockets & The OSR 

Every interstellar science fiction rpg needs an inter system ship. The type of ship that can go from point a to point be inside an Earth type solar system. Here's where a nuclear powered rocket ship comes in handy. I know that your thinking that a game like Terminal Space or Human Space Empires doesn't need such a ship. I have a difference of opinion on the matter. For one many civilizations don't have the level of technology that the inner Empire worlds have. They have to make due with what they have. Two there are many instances where such a star ship isn't available & worlds have to build their own craft. The Buck Rogers Role Playing Game also used these types of inter solar system ships as well. 

A Nuclear Powered Rocket Ship 
Displacement: 1000 tons
Convential Rocket Engine: conventional chemical rocket engine. (The X-FLR6 is said to use aniline and nitric acid propellants.) 
Nuclear Drive:  Calculus  nuclear engine is only used above 800 km altitude in space and produces a constant acceleration of one Earth gravity.
Interfogulator: Mk 2
Computer: Positronic Brain AI Mark I
Ansible: Mk 3
Officers: 6 Captain, Pilot, Navigator, Science Officer, Medical Officer, Engineer
Crew: 6 
Vehicles: Tintin's Rover -pressurized, which means the occupants can remove their spacesuits once inside, and seats four.

With the new Tintin movie coming out I thought I might put forth my own experiences with Tin Tin as I believe the movie might be a test bed for more Tin Tin movies later on! 

The official Tin Tin page Here


  1. Cool post. Pictures in the website are been unexplainable store consist of great collection.

  2. Umm Thanks, Welcome aboard. There's more to come so stay tuned!


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