Forgotten Futures IX
The Space Bubble
Reaching for the Stars

by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 2004

WorldbookMain Index


THE FINANCIAL TIMES is pleased to announce the creation of an unique prize fund, an award of up to FIVE MILLION GUINEAS to be presented to the first person or persons to visit the Moon and return with proof of their visit by December 31st 1900.
  The purpose of the competition is to encourage the development of a safe, repeatable, and affordable means of travel to the Moon, to permit the eventual exploitation of the mineral wealth that can undoubtedly be found there, and to seek evidence of the presence of inhabitants of the Moon, intelligent or otherwise.

The Moon

The total value of the prize awarded will be up to five million guineas, adjusted in accordance with the goals of the competition. There will be penalties for means which cannot easily be repeated, for means which are considered to be too expensive, and for means which are unreasonably dangerous, slow, or in other respects fail to meet this condition.

To encourage British commercial interests there will also be an adjustment based on the nationality of the winning entrant; British, Commonwealth and Empire winners will receive the full prize (subject to the adjustments described above), American entrants will receive 75 per centum, all other entrants 50 per centum. Projects with participants in more than one nation will be adjusted according to the costs expended in each nation; for example, a project with joint Anglo-American participation, of which a third is spent in Britain and the rest in America, will receive 33 per centum for the British participation, plus 66 x ¾ per centum for the American participation, totalling 84.5 per centum.

M. Verne's Moon Cannon

All entries will be judged by a panel of experts including the Proprietor and Editor of this newspaper, the Astronomer Royal, and such other eminent figures as may be considered suitable judges at the time of the landing.

To visit the Moon has long been the dream of romantic authors such as Verne, Bishop Godwin (whose hero flew to the Moon in a chariot drawn by swans) and Munchausen (via a storm blowing his ship above the clouds, leading to an encounter with headless Lunar natives), but modern engineering may at last make this dream a reality.

Swan Chariot - Lunar Native

Armaments manufacturers in Britain and abroad are developing huge artillery pieces and explosives of unparalleled power, while developments in computation, most notably in the use of calculating engines for complex arithmetical problems, seem likely to revolutionise navigation of an interplanetary projectile. Of course it is possible that the solution may lie elsewhere, in rocketry or harnessing of the Æther.
  Those who plan to enter are invited to submit a detailed proposal; those which are not considered to be frivolous or otherwise unsuitable will be published by the Financial Times.

Entry Form: Page 3Contributing to the Prize Fund: Page 4Editorial: Page 5

The Financial Times, Tuesday February 16th 1895

THIS announcement and numerous articles referring to it might catch adventurers' eyes in 1895-1900. The remainder of the text below gives more details of the competition and its organisers, methods of reaching the Moon, etc. It does not contain detailed spaceship construction rules, but includes suggestions on methods and possible problems. FF II contains design rules for anti-gravity spaceships which can be used to describe hulls for other types of ship; some alternative forms of propulsion are described below. FF II also details a version of the solar system which might be useful in this setting, and describes equipment such as space suits.

With the twentieth century fast approaching all aspects of engineering seem to be developing at a rapidly-accelerating pace. At sea steam replaced sail, and the steam turbine is rapidly replacing the conventional steam engine. On land, horse-power is almost universally replaced by trains and automobiles. In the air dirigibles and heavier-than-air craft seem set to break all speed records. Communications are rapidly becoming instantaneous, with the telegraph and now the wireless replacing the heliograph and other primitive methods. It seems only logical that the next development must be a similar increase in altitude, and increased speed which will ultimately permit a voyage to the Moon, and exploitation of its minerals and other resources.
  The Financial Times feels strongly that the Moon should be a British possession, or at the very least exploited primarily by Britain and the other Anglo-Saxon nations, and has set up the Lunar Prize Fund accordingly. Contributions to this fund will be matched by contributions from the Proprietors, donors will be given priority in the purchase of stocks and shares related to the new industries that are sure to be developed as a result of such an historic journey...

Editorial, ibid

The remainder of the editorial and the entry form don't add much more information. The editorial speculates on resources that might be found on the Moon, from minerals to medicinal plants and new domestic animals. It outlines proposals for hermetically-sealed Lunar mines along the lines of the drawing to the right (part of a series by Fred T. Jane published in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1894-5; larger versions are on the FF CD-ROM) and speculates that there might be air in the deeper valleys of the Moon (see FF II).

The entry form requests a 500 to 1000 word summary of the proposal, including methods, anticipated problems and budget, and the proposer's name, address, etc., and seems to be relatively innocuous, except that it requires a 100-guinea entry fee and states that all entries become the property of the Financial Times; the authors are paying to have their proposals examined, and they can be published or edited as the competition organisers like, without payment to the authors.

The wording of the section on "Contributing to the Prize Fund" seems to say that the all money donated to the fund will be matched by the publishers. The small print adds the key phrase "to a maximum determined by the organisers"; in other words, they aren't promising to do so indefinitely. 5% of money donated will go towards "administrative costs", another 10% towards shares in the "Lunar Exploitation Corporation Ltd." whose charter states that it will develop the resources of the Moon following a successful expedition. It promises a minimum 25% per annum return on these investments; since as yet there is no evidence that there is anything worthwhile on the Moon this may seem a little odd.

These snags should be enough to deter cautious investors and donors, but there seems to be little to lose (apart from the initial 100 guineas) by entering the competition, and possibly up to five million guineas (£5,250,000) to gain. Within a few days the Financial Times will announce that the prize fund already exceeds a hundred thousand guineas, and that the rate of donations is increasing. It looks like there will really be a prize worth winning.

In 1895 various schemes for space travel are already under consideration:

As soon as the competition is announced scientists, engineers, and crackpots enthusiasts all over the world will start to devote time and attention to most of these ideas. Why should the adventurers be any different? One possibility is that they will try to come up with their own methods, another is that they will look for a likely winner and try to invest in it, or participate in the project so that they can earn a share of the prize and any subsequent profits. There are other possibilities, of course; they could invest in the Lunar Exploitation Corporation Ltd., try to set up to manufacture something that Lunar explorers will need, such as vacuum suits, or work out a way to defraud the competition organisers and steal the money.

Articles describing several schemes will appear in the next few weeks in the Financial Times. For example:

As time passes more and more schemes will be announced, covering every possible combination of science, business acumen, and stupidity. Eventually, perhaps, one of them will reach completion, and the first men will visit the Moon.

Spacecraft Design

It's up to the referee to decide which methods, if any, will work. What follows are some VERY brief rules for designing spacecraft with these propulsion systems, modifying the design rules in FF II. Complex calculations have for the most part been avoided, so don't expect much scientific accuracy!

The FF II rules describe relatively large spacecraft whiche use the "R" or "Repulsive gravity" force for propulsion. Unless that is the means of propulsion you're using, make the following changes to reflect the propulsion method chosen.

Vacuum Suits
However the Moon is visited, one thing that will probably be needed is a vacuum suit, and several companies will develop their own designs and try to market them in preference to developing their own spacecraft. This might be a lucrative market if it ever takes off...

The design used in George Griffith's Stories of Other Worlds (but there called "breathing dress") is a state of the art design for this era, and for convenience is repeated below:

These were not unlike diving dresses, save that they were much lighter. The helmets were smaller, and made of aluminium covered with asbestos. A sort of knapsack fitted on to the back, and below this was a cylinder of liquefied air which, when passed through the expanding apparatus, would furnish pure air for a practically indefinite period, as the respired air passed into another portion of the upper chamber, where it was forced through a chemical solution which deprived it of its poisonous gases and made it fit to breathe again.

The pressure of air inside the helmet automatically regulated the supply, which was not permitted to circulate into the dress, as the absence of air-pressure on the moon would cause it to instantly expand and probably tear the material, which was a cloth woven chiefly of asbestos fibre. The two helmets could be connected for talking purposes by a light wire communicating with a little telephonic apparatus inside the helmet.

George Griffith - A Visit To The Moon (1900)

There is a lantern on the chest plate; some models have helmet lamps instead. Air pressure inside the helmet regulates the supply. An airtight collar stops air circulating into the rest of the suit, to prevent the material tearing or ballooning until it is impossible to move, but the interior of the suit is not a complete vacuum; a little air is bled in to maintain partial atmospheric pressure and protect the skin and body from vacuum-related injuries such as ruptured veins. For prolonged use it is advisable to wear elasticated underclothes, which help maintain the body's pressure. While it is possible to put on a breathing dress in minutes, fittings can take several days. They must be precisely tailored to the wearer's body, and repeatedly tested before they are worn in a vacuum.

These suits do not have any plumbing, or any arrangement for the supply of food or water without removing the suit. Maximum endurance is thus measured in hours, not the days claimed for the model; while the air does last that long, sooner or later the wearer will need to drink or use a lavatory.

Breathing dress acts as armour to reduce the Effect of all blunt weapons by 3, of all sharp weapons by 2. Since the helmet is isolated from the body, the wearer does not automatically suffocate if the suit is damaged, but any damage which actually rips the suit is automatically made worse if there is no air; flesh wounds become injuries, injuries become criticals, and criticals become kills. Double the Difficulty of first aid if a suit is ripped. The helmet windows have BODY 3 for purposes of resisting damage.

Because breathing dress is made of asbestos fibre, it gives some limited protection against fire. Reduce the Effect of all fires by 4 for 1D6 rounds.

The backpack has BODY 4. It contains lead-acid batteries, soda lime and other air purifying chemicals, and is linked to a supply of liquefied air. Any damage which affects the pack is likely to have catastrophic results, as the acid reacts with the soda lime or eats through a pipe. Referees should try to avoid killing characters instantly if their packs malfunction; it's more fun to describe fumes gradually contaminating the air supply, searingly cold liquefied air leaking down the character's back, the desperate race for the airlock before the final catastrophe, and so forth. Then kill them...

Referee's Information

Referee's Eyes Only
All information in this section is for the referee only. If you are planning to play a character in this setting please DO NOT read on.
This section outlines some information that the adventurers may not initially possess about the competition, the entrants described above, etc., including some scenario ideas based on the competing projects. They don't all interlock into one plot, as such, they're just separate situations that arise as a result of the competition. Referees should feel free to invent or delete competitors and change things around to suit their own preferences. The Moon race can be the main focus of a campaign or something that's going on in the background and is occasionally mentioned in the press; alternatively, it might briefly become important in an otherwise-unrelated campaign. For example, the projectile for the Kaiser's Lunar cannon might be being built in the same factory as the Kobold (see
Swiss Movement), members of the Queen's Own Aerial Hussars might be "volunteered" for the first flight tests of a British craft or assigned to make sure that Swami Lobsang Patel isn't using supernatural powers to influence his followers, and so forth. Meanwhile Lord Redgrave may quietly be building the first true spacecraft (FF II), having decided that he will only enter the competition at the last minute, and a group of children may be planning to make the trip by carpet (FF VIII).

The Financial Times
The FT was founded in 1888 by Horatio Bottomley, business entrepeneur, patriot and con man on an epic scale. Although it pretends to be an independent reporter on the financial scene, and to an extent has to be one to maintain credibility, it was founded primarily to "puff" the worthless companies floated by Bottomley and his cronies, and still does so in 1895. This is fairly common knowledge in the business community, and most shrewd speculators know better than to invest in his Australian gold mines and other worthless stocks. Fortunately for Bottomley there are plenty of mugs around who are taken in by him. Some of them may be adventurers...

Horatio Bottomley (Journalist, Businessman, 1860-193)
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [3], Actor (public speaker) [6], Artist (author) [6], Athlete [4], Brawling [5], Business [3], Driving [5], Marksman [6], Melee Weapon [4], Psychology [6], Thief [8]
Equipment: All of the resources of a large newspaper, .38 single-shot pistol, £200,000 in various banks, country estate, racehorses, etc.
Quote: "I will buy bonds, and hand them over to trustees, and each year we will draw for the accruing interest. Your capital will remain intact, or at any time, if you wish it, you may receive it back in full."
Notes: While superficially a prominent businessman and newspaper proprietor, Bottomley is actually an indifferent businessman but superlative con man. He was an orphan who became a court reporter, later a journalist, and somehow a successful business tycoon. He founded the Financial Times in 1888 and will go on to become an MP (losing his seat when he is declared bankrupt) and prominent patriotic speaker (for a fee) in wartime. Late in life he will become an alcoholic, eventually losing everything before his death. More information can be found at BiographyBase and other sites, and in a biography by Julian Symons (2001).
The Lunar Exploitation Corporation and the competition are Bottomley's masterwork; no reputable expert is prepared to admit that the Moon might be reached at any time in the near future, and most doubt that it can be done at all, but there is a long history of Lunar projects in scientific romances and the popular press, which the Financial Times offer should bring to fever-pitch. Most laymen are ready to believe that it can be done, and even the press is half-convinced. The company is apparently owned by a consortium of investors, and Bottomley's name doesn't appear on the board; however, the investors are his puppets. He plans to raise money by attracting donations (which he will siphon off into his own pockets), by selling shares in the Corporation, and by selling mineral rights and other assets which will only be his if an expedition occurs, finds the mineral resources he has predicted, and claims them for Britain. It's a towering edifice of lies which will be supported by articles in the FT and other papers, by word of mouth, and in any other way that Bottomley can dream up. Only one thing can bring it down; a successful expedition to the Moon.

Any entries received go to Bottomley's tame scientist, a gin-sodden physicist fallen on hard times. If he thinks that the proposal stands a chance of success he will warn Bottomley, who will look into ways of stopping it. If he thinks that the proposal mentions anything that might be worth patenting before the inventor gets round to it he'll look into that too...

Adventurers checking into the competition should soon recognise it as a publicity stunt, but may not realise the extent of the deception. On a Difficulty [5] Business roll Bottomley's role at the FT and reputation as a "warm" businessman, occasionally involved in dubious stocks, will be remembered if the adventurers are looking for something wrong. As yet he has no criminal record. Proving his involvement in the Lunar Exploitation Corporation will be work for a detective with access to Companies House and other financial records, and will take several weeks of digging at Difficulty [6]. An early discovery will be a payment of 500 guineas from the Corporation to the FT for "publicity"; the competition. It isn't immediately apparent that this money is going from one of Bottomley's pockets to another.

Bottomley's cronies have access to a range of criminal help, including thugs, burglars, etc., and if he thinks that a project has a real chance of success he'll arrange for a few problems; a key worker might "accidentally" be beaten up by "debt collectors" who pretend to mistake him for someone else, an office might be broken into and a fire started. If all else fails he will use lawyers to harrass the project; there's usually something that can be objected to. He can't do much about the German project, but the German government and Kaiser have never formally entered the competition, so the prize won't have to be paid to them if they reach the Moon first. If they ever do enter he will be a very worried man. He has a few contacts abroad who may be asked to interfere with the other projects, but his real strength is in Britain, where any project that looks promising will encounter severe problems. He and his friends will stop short of murder - that might invite too many questions - but short of that anything's possible.

The Great Arkansas Railway Company Inc.
Cyrus P. Hackenbacker (Inventor, Businessman, and Adventurer, 1845-??)
BODY [5], MIND [6], SOUL [3], Athlete [7], Babbage Engine [8], Brawling [6], Business [8], Driving [7], First Aid [4], Linguist (Cherokee, Choctaw, Mandarin Chinese, German, French) [7], Marksman [8], Martial Arts (savate) [6], Mechanic [9], Melee Weapon [8], Military Arms [7], Morse Code [7], Pilot (gliders, balloons) [6], Riding [7], Scientist (engineer) [8]
Equipment: A railway company, private train with workshop, laboratory, etc., selection of rifles and hand-guns, cavalry sabre, Bible.
Quote: "When someone tells me something can't be done, son, (spits into spitoon) that's when I maybe get a little interested."
Notes: The son of a US Senator and one of America's pioneer women physicians, Hackenbacker has a passion for gadgetry and invention that has made him a multi-millionaire and owner of a successful railway company. He has worked on flying machines of various types, from balloons to aeronefs, high speed trains and automobiles, even an improved bicycle with a six-speed gearbox. His adventurous career has taken him all over the world. His next project was to have been an attempt on the land speed record, now he has determined to combine that with the launching of his spacecraft. He confidently expects to win the prize if all goes well, or die trying. Useful models for this character include an older version of Tom Swift or "Doc" Savage, or the comic character Tom Strong.
Having made his fortune in railway engineering, Cyrus P. Hackenbacker is bored with business (he mostly considers it to be too easy) and looking for something exciting to keep him busy for a year or two. He was experimenting with designs for a steam turbine train when he heard of the contest, and has decided to attempt to win it for the USA. He's aware of the risks but he's fifty, his wife is dead, and his son is already independently wealthy. If he is killed it'll be unfortunate, but the railway will be left in good hands. He hasn't yet selected a co-pilot, and will be actively looking for someone with suitable skills (such as Science (Astronomy), Mechanic, Pilot, etc.) nearer the completion of the project.

Hackenbacker's ship, the American Eagle, is a stripped-down lightweight two-man craft weighing just over ten tons. He plans to land on the Moon, spend a few hours exploring, then return to Earth. The design is spartan - there isn't even an air lock, the occupants will both have to wear vacuum suit throughout the time they are on the surface of the Moon, and at any other time either wishes to exit the craft.

The American Eagle is to be launched in a three-stage process; it will be accelerated to the astonishing speed of 300 MPH by Hackenbacker's steam turbine train, at which point a steam catapult will fire and boost it to nearly 1000 MPH. As it leaves the catapult a supplementary or "booster" rocket will ignite and deliver the remainder of the velocity needed to take it to the Moon. Since the booster doesn't have to provide all of the impetus needed to get the craft up to speed it is smaller than that needed for a pure rocket craft, only five times the weight of the Eagle itself, costing £3,180. The booster takes the final weight of the craft to 68.8 tons, and must be replaced after each flight.
Game design note: it was assumed that the train and launch catapult do roughly two thirds of the work of getting the projectile into space, with the booster doing the rest. Components were priced accordingly.

Overall the launch train / catapult system costs £170,500 (nearly a million dollars) but it is completely reusable apart from the booster. These costs include the construction of the train and catapult and upgrades to a remote section of track in southwestern Arizona, near Fort Yuma, making the rails stronger and smoother than any other American railway. Hackenbacker doesn't own these tracks, they belong to another railway magnate who has taken an interest in the project, and is letting Hackenbacker use them free of charge - Hackenbacker is paying for the track repairs, of course - in exchange for a 5% share of any profits from the first flight. There will be rental fees for any subsequent flight. The track at this point runs completely straight for nearly a hundred miles West to East, mostly on a rising gradient that will add a little extra upwards momentum. Its location is good too; the railway is at 35°N, further South than any other comparable stretch of track in the USA, so the American Eagle will gain the best possible help from the rotation of the Earth.

American Eagle (USA)
2-seater catapult and rocket-launched projectile spacecraft.
2 x 4th class accommodation, supplies 2 x 1 week, hold 1.0 ton 3.0 Yds³, landing gear, rocket / parachutes for return flight.
10.6 tons, 31.0 Yds³, £1,550, BODY 50
Booster rocket for above 58.3 tons, 106.0 Yds³, £3,180, BODY 50
Launch train and catapult for above £170,500, expendables £1,700 plus booster.
Other Equipment: 2 x vacuum suits, prospecting supplies, camera, etc.
Notes: A spartan craft with a minimum of equipment for life support. Since there is no air lock the occupants must both wear vaccum suits if either leaves the vessel; in flight they must take turns on a bicycle generator to keep batteries charged for lighting and life support. This is basically a "proof of concept" craft, which Hackenbacker will scale up if it is succesful, and if the first flight finds resources valuable enough to make another flight worthwhile. Of course this depends on the resources; if diamonds were found, for example, the craft is large enough for a considerable fortune.
The illustration, a photograph taken moments after launching an unmanned prototype, shows the booster rocket beginning to ignite - in fact it failed to ignite properly and exploded moments later.

Hackenbacker has a proven track record as an engineer and inventor, and most American experts consider him to be the strongest contestant, if they consider the project to be possible at all. Edison has expressed an interest in investing in the flight; Tesla has offered his engineering services free of charge if Hackenbacker changes to an electric engine for the launch train, but Hackenbacker has politely declined.

While Bottomley knows little of engineering, his advisors will soon tell him that Hackenbacker is a credible threat, with the business acumen needed to put the project together, and the engineering and scientific abilities to get it to work. He has detectives hired in America to investigate Hackenbacker and find any weaknesses that might be exploited to stop the flight; this is done through second and third parties, of course, since Bottomley has little influence in the USA.

Scenario Idea: Grave Reservations
As Hackenbacker's project is nearing completion one of the local Indian tribes announces that the track was built across one of their former burial grounds. The ghosts that lived there were previously appeased by their ceremonies, but will surely re-awaken and bring bad luck to the whole area if anything as unnatural as the American Eagle is permitted to fly there. Cleansing the area of its ghosts will require a prolonged ceremony and ghost dance, taking nearly a week, and until this is done the Eagle cannot fly. They're willing to perform the ceremony for a modest fee, a few hundred dollars, but it must be done at exactly the right time. And exactly the right time is, of course, exactly when Hackenbacker plans to launch the Eagle... If Hackenbacker asks for help from the local military he'll be told that relations with the Indians are reasonably good; nobody in authority wants to see an uprising, so it's advisable to keep things friendly.
  Are the Indians telling the truth, or is it some sort of scam? Could someone be putting them up to this, either by bribing them or through some form of deception? What do they plan to do if Hackenbacker doesn't agree to their terms? How will Hackenbacker react? Is there any other way to appease the ghosts? What will happen if they are real and aren't appeased? And how do the adventurers come into it? It's up to you to decide.

The Prussian Empire
The Kaiser loves the idea of sending Germans to the Moon, but his advisors are less keen. Germany needs to expand on Earth, not into space. Nevertheless the idea has a good deal of popular support, even amongst those who would normally object to military projects of similar magnitude. Gradually politicians begin to see it as a way to encourage patriotism and bring some dissident voices back into the fold of the Empire. And the Kaiser will be paying a large part of the expenses from his personal fortune, so the burden won't fall heavily on the tax payers or the budget. Accordingly the Imperial Lunar Expedition (Kaiserliche Mondexpedition) is nominally a scientific survey. That's why they're only taking two Maxim guns...

Prussia's craft is Der Adler (the Eagle), and it's big. Where Hackenbacker plans a quick flying visit, the first Prussian expedition will be a thorough investigation of the Moon's resources. Der Adler will carry a team of ten explorers, equipped to stay on the Moon for weeks. It will have a galley, a proper control room, and everything else needed for their comfort and survival. This of course means that the launch cannon must be truly vast. There's a big snag; Germany's location. The southern tip of the empire is in Bavaria, and even that's only at 48°N, a far cry from the equatorial location that's ideal for a Lunar launch. Fortunately Germany has colonies overseas, one of them being German East Africa, and it will soon become apparent that the Space Cannon (Die Raumkanone) is being built in mine workings near Dar-es-Salaam, an Indian Ocean harbour close to the equator at 7°S.

In order to make this work most of the components have to be prefabricated in Germany and shipped by sea; very little can be manufactured locally. This is a long difficult journey, via the Mediterranean and Suez Canal then down the African coast. Unfortunately Germany's West African colonies, otherwise more accessible, are too far South and have inadequate harbours. Needless to say Britain and the other colonial powers are not entirely happy about vast quantities of explosives being shipped to Africa, fearing that some may be stockpiled for use in a future war. Nevertheless construction of the space cannon is going ahead at a brisk pace, and observers who have visited Dar-es-Salaam have noticed the enthusiasm with which it is being built, and the eagerness with which the natives are working. This may be the result of generous wages, or possibly they simply like the idea of visiting the Moon.

Der Adler (Prussia)
10-passenger cannon-launched projectile spacecraft.
Control room, 1 x 2nd class cabin, 2 x 3rd class cabins, 7 x 4th class bunks, supplies 10 x 4 weeks, hold 5.0 tons 10.0 Yds³, air lock, landing gear, rocket / parachutes for return flight, heavy armoured hull, wireless transmitter.
Other Equipment: 10 x vacuum suits, prospecting supplies, cameras, 2 x Maxim guns, etc.
131.7 tons, 275.2 Yds³, £30,492, BODY 75
Launch cannon with staggered explosive charges £1,025,250, explosives £100,000 maintainance £50,000. These prices do not include the cost of transportation to Dar-es-Salaam.
Notes: The Bemanntes Raumgeschoß (Manned Space Projectile) Adler is to be a showcase for Prussian engineering, and everyone wants to be sure that nothing can go wrong. This means that it uses conservative Prussian engineering techniques and a thorough approach to safety - in other words everything is at least 20% stronger than theory suggests it needs to be, and a good deal more complicated. The hull is thicker than most theoretical studies suggest is necessary, the rocket engines are slightly over-specified, there's even a small chemically-fuelled generator to keep batteries charged so that nobody has to pedal, although it's strongly recommended for health reasons.
  Although the craft is nominally owned by the Head of State, the Kaiser, he's also Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and it will be crewed by officers and men of the Imperial Army and Navy. Selection criteria will be severe, with every man chosen for his skills, experience, and fitness. If the mission is a success they will become the first cadre of the Imperial Prussian Space Corps (Das preußische Reichsraumkorps).
The illustration shows the craft being lowered into the firing shaft to check its fit prior to the placement of explosives.

The publicly-announced priorities of the mission are to look for evidence of valuable resources such as metal ores, rare earths, and other precious minerals, to seek signs of life, and to take photographs of the Earth and of the stars from outside the Earth's atmosphere. The explorers also have secret orders to set up their wireless transmitter as soon as they are safely on the Moon, then claim the Moon for the Kaiser. Commentators in other countries have guessed that it is part of the agenda for the flight, German sources have refused to confirm or deny it for obvious reasons; if the flight left with this announced intention and failed it would damage German credibility. Nobody, including the Kaiser, is entirely sure that such a claim could be enforced outside the immediate area of any German colonies, and there is always a slight chance that it could lead to future trouble, but it might be a useful trading point in future international negotiations.

Scenario Idea: Flash
The adventurers (who should have a reputation for solving tricky mysteries where the police have failed) are approached by Miss Greta Bechstein, a young German lady living in London. Her father is an expert on industrial chemistry, currently lecturing at King's College. She has an odd story: about a week ago her father vanished en route from the college to their home, and nobody has heard of him since. All attempts to find him have failed. The only thing she can think of that was even slightly unusual about his behaviour prior to his disappearance is that about ten days earlier he had her take a bulky letter to the German Embassy, addressed to the Ambassador and marked "Urgent". She has made enquiries at the Embassy, but they claim to know nothing of the Professor's whereabouts. They admit to having received the letter, of course, but all they are prepared to say is that it concerned a scientific matter and has been forwarded to the appropriate department, the Mine Safety Bureau in Berlin. The police are aware that he has disappeared, but have been unable to trace his movements; he set off from the university on foot, a journey of about a mile, but never arrived home.
  If the adventurers ask more questions about his area of expertise, at the college or elsewhere, they'll be told that he's recently been working on the thermodynamics of explosions in the chemical industry; the causes and consequences of industrial accidents. It's a new field, and one that promises to make the chemical industry much safer.
  If the adventurers check his study they'll find that there are a lot of fairly abstruse-looking calculations on blackboards and on the papers around the office, most of them so scrawled as to be almost unreadable. One odd note; a folder containing newspaper and magazine articles about Der Adler, which is due to be launched in less than two weeks, most of them with figures underlined or circled, and scrawled calculations in the margins. On a Difficulty [5] Science roll it should be clear that the calculations relate to the energy of the explosion that will propel the capsule into space, the temperature of the gases, etc. There are two other newspaper clippings in the file; one describes a grain mill explosion in America, another a colliary disaster in Wales, a catastrophic fire and explosion. These should be the clue that unlocks the mystery.
  If the adventurers check they'll learn that the Raumkanone has been built in a worked-out coal mine seven miles outside Dar-es-Salaam. The engineers have deepened and widened the shaft and built in all the side tunnels required for the colossal cannon. To do this they have naturally had to excavate countless tons of crushed rock, most of it moved to spoil heaps around the edges of the construction site. Most of it contains a proportion of coal, and there are huge quantities of coal dust. For the launch the Germans are evacuating everyone within a five-mile radius of the mine, but Professor Bechstein's figures suggest that this will not be enough. The initial shock wave from the explosion will throw hundreds of tons of coal dust into the air, then as the projectile leaves the mine the flames that erupt from the pit will flash-ignite the coal dust. This will quadruple the size of the explosion, and most of it will occur above ground. If the figures are correct a shock wave of burning gas and dust will sweep out from the pit, spreading far beyond the evacuation zone before it loses its force. By his estimate most of Dar-es-Salaam will be destroyed.
  Once the Professor's findings reached Berlin the authorities realised that a catastrophe was likely. The adventurers may possibly think that Bechstein has been kidnapped to keep him quiet; in fact he was met outside the college by embassy officials, and has been taken to Berlin to consult with the Kaiser, the military authorities and the Bureau of Mines, in an attempt to find a quick solution without delaying the launch. He meant to send his daughter a telegram, telling her he has had to leave on urgent business, but forgot. The embassy knows that he has been taken to Berlin, but has been told to keep the matter quiet; unfortunately this has been taken a little too literally.
  If the adventurers act like adventurers usually do this will probably result in a high-speed dash to Berlin, attempts to "rescue" the Professor... and embarassment all round when they realise that he's actually there willingly. Nevertheless he'll be grateful that they helped his daughter, and he in turn now has the ear of the Kaiser and other authorities in Germany, which might be very useful in the future.
  Incidentally, the Professor has already solved the problem; the spoil heaps need to be sprayed with hundreds of tons of water, with high-pressure fire hoses and pumps left running to ensure that any dust that's raised doesn't easily ignite. A battleship has been diverted to Dar-es-Salaam, and its fire-fighting equipment will be rushed to the mine and used for this purpose. Eventually, unless the adventurers somehow contrive to make things go wrong, Der Adler will be launched without hurting anyone on the ground. The safety of its occupants may, of course, be a different matter...

The Lunar Cheese Corporation Ltd.
Wallace T. Grimsdyke (Inventor, Businessman, 1835-??)
BODY [3], MIND [4], SOUL [4], Artist (musician) [6], [Babbage Engine [5], Brawling [5], Business [6], Driving [5], Mechanic [8], Pilot (balloons) [5], Scientist [6]
Equipment: The resources of a successful dairy products company. A small home laboratory and workshop, telescope, pocket watch, harmonium.
Quote: "I always say there's nothing like a good cup of tea. Put t'kettle on, Gladys, I'll be telling these gentlemen about the ether."
Notes: Grimsdyke is a successful cheese magnate, who has built up a small dairy into Northern England's largest cheese company. His company sells blocks and rounds of cheese to most of the shops North of Watford, and wax-packaged cheeses throughout the British Empire. The company has traded under its current name for twenty-five years, and its logo (suggested originally by Verne's novel) is a projectile craft above the moon, and a gentleman in a top hat leaning out to cut off a slice of cheese from it.
  In his spare time Grimsdyke is a keen amateur astronomer and "natural philosopher", with an interest in the properties of the ether. While conducting experiments in this field he has recently found evidence that it really does exist, and could possibly be used to lift a vehicle to the Moon; in fact the main difficulty would probably be stopping there. He has built a series of demonstration models, but lacks the engineering resources to scale them up to a full-sized vessel capable of surviving the flight and returning to Earth. For that he needs investors, engineers, etc. Although it seems unlikely, he is a member in good standing of the Royal Society and owns several lucrative patents related to the cheese industry.
  Good role models for the character can be found in the films The Man in the White Suit, The Dam Busters, and A Grand Day Out.
With the odds seeming to favour the big guns (very literally), Wallace T. Grimsdyke is the rank outsider amongst the "real" entries, not exactly a crackpot but not taken very seriously by anyone who matters. This may be a mistake...

Two years ago Grimsdyke accidentally discovered that when thin sheets of gold leaf are charged to a high AC voltage at certain frequencies they suddenly start to vibrate then rip free of the charging apparatus with enough force to tear the gold leaf. By running this test many times, with the gold leaf held at different angles, he has established that the force with which this happens, and the direction in which the gold leaf moves, is directly related to the rotational and orbital motion of the Earth. He's now sure that it is produced by the Earth's movement through the Ether. When the competition was announced he realised that he might have the answer to cheap space travel, and set to work to prove it. He has perfected a demonstration of the system; a balloon coated with gold leaf carrying a small battery and an induction coil which produces high voltage AC. When switched on it takes a few seconds to charge then flies off with great speed, vanishing from view in a second, or smashing into the ground with colossal force. Again the direction and force can be directly related to the movement of the Earth. He can also demonstrate a small ether-driven generator which has charged "paddles" which rotate with enough force to power the induction coil that keeps them charged, and could potentially be scaled up to produce useful amounts of electricity.

Grimsdyke believes that larger sails will be proportionately more powerful, and has calculated that the optimum area would be about fifty square yards to pull a load of a ton; with larger sail to weight ratios he's afraid that the rigging will snap. After some experimentation with gold leaf, silk balloons, etc. he has estimated that gilded silk can be manufactured for about £3 per square yard, about £150 per ton to be moved. He also needs to redesign the power supply for the large sail area, and design a chemical filter to absorb the ozone that's an unfortunate by-product of its operation. His problems are firstly liquidity - he recently bought out a rival cheese manufacturer and has relatively little uncommitted cash - and secondly a lack of large-scale engineering expertise. He needs partners who can put up the money for the project and build the craft. The terms of the deal are simple; he's offering a total of £10,000 worth of shares in the profits of the first expedition (including the FT competition if he wins it), at £200 for a 1% share, totalling 50% of profits. Investors putting up £1,000 or more get a year's license of the patents he has filed. Investors who put up at least £2,000 are offered the opportunity to join the first expedition. Investors can put up the money directly, or by paying for the construction of the craft.

There's only one problem with this plan; Grimsdyke has greatly underestimated the total cost of manufacturing the gilded silk in quantity, and it will cost £5 a square yard, not £3. He's also underestimated some of the other costs. In all the project will cost more than thirty thousand, not twenty. While Grimsdyke can pay about half of this, he will eventually have to sell another £4,000 worth of shares.

The Gladys Grimsdyke (Britain)
6-passenger ether sail spacecraft.
6 x 3rd class cabin, Supplies 6 x 4 weeks, hold 10.0 tons 40.0 Yds³, landing gear, air lock, rocket / parachutes for return flight, armoured hull, ether sails and power supply
Other Equipment: 6 x vacuum suits, prospecting supplies, cameras, telescope, etc.
73 tons, 195.5 Yds³, £30,254, BODY 60
Notes: Named for Grimsdyke's wife, the craft is designed for ether sail flight but if necessary can return to Earth under rocket power, without waiting for the Moon to be in the right position to use the sails to return. It can travel to the moon in about ten hours.
An artist's impression of the craft in flight, an edited photograph originally published in the Illustrated London News.

While the Gladys Grimsdyke is the most obvious product of Grimsdyke's breakthrough, his generator is actually a more important and generally useful discovery. Scaled up it will be a clean free source of electricity, potentially on a vast scale. Of course that energy comes from somewhere, the Earth's motion through the Ether. In 1900 the energy requirements of the human race are still relatively modest; from 1900 to 2000 (in the "real" world) the human race will use more energy than throughout its prior history, and with essentially free non-polluting power that rise might continue indefinitely. It might take centuries or thousands of years for the effect to become noticeable, but gradually the braking effect of countless thousands of generators will start to slow the Earth's motion; the day will become longer, as will the year, while the Earth's orbit around the Sun gradually becomes more eccentric. Eventually the Earth might be left behind in space, slowing relative to the ether while (apparently) accelerating away from the Sun, with a new ice age beginning and the output of ether generators dropping since its motion through the ether is slower. It might be an interesting setting for a far-future campaign.

If you would prefer not to use the ether in your adventures, Grimsdyke is the victim of fraud. One of his assistants has been rigging the experiments, using conjuring techniques. The generators are powered by cunningly concealed compressed air jets; the prototype ether sails took off rapidly because an accomplice was reeling them in on fishing line from the tower of the local church (in this version Grimsdyke didn't try releasing one which would have gone downwards). This began as a joke, but now they plan to steal the sails (which will contain gold worth three to four thousand pounds if melted down; most of the cost of gold leaf comes from its manufacture) before the "flight".

Note that if the luminiferous ether exists the famous Michelson-Morley Experiment of 1887 will have shown that the velocity of light is different in different directions, the theory of relativity cannot be developed, and many other experiments will give different results. The foundations of much of modern physics will be almost unrecognisable. Or perhaps not...

Scenario Idea: Ether / Or
There's something strange going on. Nearly ten years ago the classic Michelson-Morley Experiment proved conclusively that the Ether doesn't exist. Now British scientist Wallace T. Grimsdyke has proved that it does, and other scientists are beginning to find confirmation in their own experiments. How can that be possible? Were the previous experiments defective, or has the universe somehow changed since 1887? Is it a natural phenomenon, or something that is somehow man-made? Or could it be made by something other than man?
An adventure beginning with this premise might lead to contact with aliens powerful enough to change the very nature of the universe, or the discovery that the universe is in some way an illusion, a simulation created for unknown reasons. Maybe the adventurers (and the rest of hunanity) are guinea pigs in some cosmic experiment, maybe they're just pawns in a strange game. Played with 2D6? It's up to you to decide.

The Temple of Enlightenment (Islamabad & Chicago) Inc.
Swami Lobsang Patel / Sam Hannigan
(Mystic, 17??-1852 / 1852-??)
BODY [2], MIND [4], SOUL [7], Actor (public speaking) [8], Ahlete (Yoga) [5], Brawling [4], Linguist (Urdu, Pushtu, Tibetan) [3], Martial Arts (pressure point attacks) [6], Medium [4], Psychology [7], Riding [9], Scholar (obscure mystic philosophies) [7], Stealth [9]
Equipment: Loin cloth (use of a chauffeur-driven car owned by the temple etc.)
Quote: (in badly accented English) "The true path to enlightenment is the renouncing of worldly goods. Only when this is done can there be opening of the inward eye of the lotus...."
Notes: Swami Lobsang Patel claims to be a reincarnated Eastern mystic, and if asked about his current body will admit to having been born as Sam Hannigan, a merchant seaman and masseur. He is vague about much of his previous life but mentions having studied in Islamabad, Nepal, and Tibet. Whether or not these claims are true is open to question, what is certain is that he appears to be capable of extraordinary feats of endurance, can disable a man by touching him in the right spot, and preaches a doctrine of self-sacrifice and asceticism which is attracting many followers.
  One of his claims is the ability to assume an astral form capable of travelling to distant locations while he is in a trance. After such trances he has described distant locations with an impressive amount of detail. Soon after the Financial Times competition was announced he told his followers that he intended to use this power to visit the Moon, and draw on the power of true believers to take a camera with him and return with photographs of the Moon and samples of its minerals. He plans to make the attempt soon, then claim the FT prize and use it to spread enlightenment.
Based in Chicago's exclusive Hyde Park district, the Temple of Enlightenment Inc. has spread its message of asceticism and enlightenment since 1893. Converts are asked to donate their worldly goods to a fund which Swami Lobsang Patel administers, which will spread his holy word and perform (very vaguely specified) good works. In return they may study and meditate at the Swami's temple. His followers include members of some of the wealthiest families in Chicago, all of whom seem to be very happy with their faith.

While the Swami has many admirers, there are others who are less impressed. The Chicago Police Department has twice raided the temple looking for evidence of prostitution (which they did not find) and several of the Swami's followers have had their estates placed into the hands of attorneys representing their families interests. With the Swami's new announcement the Temple has begun a period of intensive recruitment. Eventually, when there are enough followers and the stars are right, the Swami will begin his meditation, astrally take a camera to the Moon, and return with photographs, rock samples, etc. To do this he will need the help of hundreds of followers, all of whom must participate without reservation.

The odd thing about this is that the Swami is completely sincere and genuinely believes that he can accomplish the feat. If adventurers check they'll find that the temple has given thousands of dollars to charities and the poor, accounting for most of the wealth donated to it. The remainder has been spent on the temple, food for the worshippers, etc. The Swami keeps nothing, and genuinely leads the ascetic life claimed; he travels by car when he's on business because some of his followers insist that a holy man shouldn't walk, but that's his only luxury.

The Swami is actually Sam Hannigan, a former merchant seaman and masseur, originally from Dublin, who suffered brain damage as a result of hitting his head in a fall. Afterwards he somehow began to look much older and acquired a completely different personality, complete with languages, a complex and philosophically challenging version of theology, and an unusual fighting skill which seems to consist entirely of finger blows to nerve clusters, causing paralysis or unconsciousness. He believes that the original Swami died in 1851, and was immediately reincarnated as the infant Hannigan.

In fact he is completely wrong; he suffers from a form of schizophrenia caused by the brain injury, and has invented every detail of his "previous life", including most of the languages he speaks. Before the accident he was interested in Eastern philosophies and read books and articles about the mystic east, somehow he has converted this knowledge into the Swami's persona. If he is tested by a real linguist who actually speaks one of the languages he claims to understand he will insist that the linguist is trying to trick him by speaking some other language. If he is asked to read from books written in these languages he will do so, fluently and with no hesitation, but what he says has little to do with what's on the page. He genuinely has no idea that he is doing this. Similarly, his fighting style probably owes more to his extensive knowledge of muscles and nerves than to any genuine Eastern martial art; he has only used it in demonstration fights against poorly-trained acolytes of his temple, never in a real life or death fight.

His philosophy, such as it is, is a mish-mash of a half-dozen different beliefs, with reincarnation and ascension as a "higher being", redemption for sins if the believer is truly penitent, and all forms of indulgence not in themselves evil, simply distractions from the Path of Enlightenment. As described by the Swami it is an attractive philosophy which appeals to many who have no time for more conventional religions.

Depending on the direction you may wish your campaign to take he may simply be deluded, but it's more entertaining if he genuinely has psychic powers which will be boosted by sufficient worshippers, as described above.

Scenario Idea: Revisionism
With the Swami vanished, apparently for good, his spiritual successors wish to study every detail of his career in Chicago, and his previous life in the East. Unfortunately the details don't seem to make sense when they're analysed. Most of the scriptures he quoted exist, but most of the details he gave are wrong. Nobody can find any record of his previous life, and again there seems to be little or no resemblence to the real Tibet, Nepal, etc. There are phonograph recordings of his speeches, which often included passages in the languages he claimed to speak; no reputable linguist can understand them. Revealing this would be a disaster for the Temple, whose leadership now seem to be unhealthily aware of the value of a dollar, and is charging substantial fees for teleportation training. The adventurers (who should have talents such as Linguist, Actor, Artist etc.) are hired to write a definitive account of the Swami's life, one that doesn't expose these dubious facts but instead speaks of an intimate knowledge of the Mystic East, to "restore" phonograph recordings of the Swami speaking the various languages he claimed to know, and otherwise reinforce the Temple's claim to be a legitimate religious organisation. The nature of the deception should be intimated gradually, with the job appearing to be legitimate at first. Will the adventurers agree, and how will they be treated if they don't? Its up to the referee...

The Moon

Sooner or later someone will probably get to the Moon, so it's a good idea to decide what you want it to be like.

End Game

Sooner or later someone will probably reach the Moon and return with proof of their exploit. If the competition hasn't already been exposed as fraudulent Bottomley will use ajudication and the precise wording of the rules as delaying tactics, in a prolonged attempt to avoid exposure.

The first relevant part of the rules states that "All entries will be judged by a panel of experts including the Proprietor and Editor of this newspaper, the Astronomer Royal, and such other eminent figures as may be considered suitable judges at the time of the landing." In other words, with the exception of the Astronomer Royal the panel can be packed with Bottomley's cronies, and it will take a prolonged legal battle to shift them and substitute "suitable judges" who are acceptable to both sides. When this initial dispute has gone on for as long as possible the prize committee meets for the first time - without the Astronomer Royal, since nobody has actually asked him to participate. Needless to say the rules are adamant that he must be involved, so there's another delay while he's approached and tries to make time in his busy schedule. Then, of course, some of the other judges won't be able to make it...

The next thing that's important is the actual size of the prize fund. Bottomley admits to having raised a little over a million pounds, which seems oddly little since a hundred thousand pounds were raised in the first few weeks - he claims that most of that was his own money, which he put in to get the fund off to a good start. Nobody expected anyone to actually make the trip so soon - this argument will be used regardless of the time it takes to get an expedition under way. There have also been expenses, legal fees, etc., and investment in the Lunar Exploitation Corporation Ltd. Since the competition began the rules have been amended several times, and nearly 30% of the money donated has been passed on to the Corporation - which of course is an entirely separate legal entity with no responsibility for the prize fund - and another ten percent for expenses, which have somehow come to include lavish entertainment aboard Bottomley's yacht, house parties, travel, etc.

The next area for disagreement will be the proportion of the prize that is to be awarded. The rules state that "There will be penalties for means which cannot easily be repeated, for means which are considered to be too expensive, and for means which are unreasonably dangerous, slow, or in other respects fail to meet this condition." Every part of this rule is open to interpretation. For example it might be claimed that building a space cannon cannot be easily repeated and is very expensive, or that a journey taking three or four days (cannon) or ten days (gravity screen) is too slow. Nearly all the means that might be used are incredibly dangerous! And of course the "penalties" were never specified, so this gives plenty of scope for arguments and more lawyers. The big dispute, however, will be the cost of the voyage. Bottomley's tactic here will be to base this on the total cost of the voyage, including all expenses however trivial, with any non-recurring elements (such as construction of Lunar cannon or launch catapults) considered to be part of the price of a single journey. It will take prolonged arguments and the help of a few lawyers to get a more sensible agreement; for example, an ether sail craft would cost very little to run after it was built, so the total cost per passenger should be low, mainly the cost of replenishing supplies and if necessary replacing rockets etc. The next argument is what is, and is not, reasonable expense. Bottomley's tactic here is to compare passenger and freight charges with a long Terrestrial voyage, such as a transatlantic passage, divide the total distance to the Moon by the distance across the Atlantic, and multiply the cost accordingly. Pointing out that if the same argument is applied to journey times the trip should have taken several months may help, but again lawyers will be needed to settle the argument.

Bottomley's argument: Third class fare on a transatlantic liner costs £8 for approximately 4,000 miles. The distance to the Moon is 250,000 miles, and the round trip 500,000 miles. Therefore a "reasonable" cost per passenger for the journey to the Moon is
500,000 ÷ 4,000 x £8 = £1000
Similarly the transatlantic freight cost for a typical cargo (wheat) is about 7s a ton, volume about 1.5 yards³, so by this measure the cost per ton of cargo from the moon (a one-way trip) should be:
250,000 ÷ 4,000 x 7s = 437.5s = £21 17s 6d

Needless to say Bottomley will not use these calculations if the costs of a Lunar trip are anywhere near or below these figures; he will look for an argument that gives a lower cost per passenger or per ton.

There will be endless delays, and all of the corporate expenses of the negotiations will come out of the prize fund; the claimants must pay their own, of course. A year after the landing the Lunar Development Corporation announces that due to the legal complications surrounding the prize competition they will be unable to pay a dividend; when shareholders point out that the prize fund organisers say that the LDC is a separate company, the company spokesman (another of Bottomley's cronies) replies that their lawyers have told them that they cannot invest in Lunar exploration while there are still legal issues - since they haven't been able to invest, they can't pay dividends. The shareholders won't be happy, but there doesn't seem to be much that can be done about it.

Eventually, after at least eighteen months, if the full extent of Bottomley's double-dealing hasn't been revealed by the adventurers, some sort of agreement should be reached. Tens of thousands of pounds will have gone to lawyers, but the remaining million or so is to be divided between the winning entry and the Lunar Development Corporation according to the split recommended by the prize committee and lawyers. The LDC will invest in the winning entry, of course. Eventually...

Once this agreemant has been signed the Financial Times will duly pay out the remnants of the prize, after legal fees etc. have been deducted, to maximum publicity. With much less publicity the majority shareholders in the Lunar Development Corporation will petition to have the company dissolved, and its assets returned to investors, before they can be "squandered" on the Moon. Oddly enough the major investors are Bottomley and his cronies, who will receive ten shillings for every pound invested; the rest seems to have disappeared in publicity, entertainment, and other expenses. Smaller investors and those who are slow to make claims will have to fight over the remnants, eventually receiving a shilling or two in the pound.

If spaceflight actually looks like it might be profitable Bottomley will eventually invest in it, and adventurers remembering the earlier problems may want to try a scam or two of their own.

Sources, Acknowledgements, etc.

Recommended Reading:

Pictures are from a 1900 article on astronomy, George Griffith's Stories of other Worlds, Baron Munchausen, Bishop Godwin, Verne's From the Earth to the Moon and Georges Méliès' film Le Voyage dans la lune (loosely based on this novel), and illustrations in various period magazines, or were created for this release of Forgotten Futures.

Special thanks to Charles Stross and Bridget Wilkinson for laughing at the right places and to Andreas "Ozzy" Beck, Wolfgang Baur, sirernest, katemonkey, cdybedahl and other livejournal users who gave great help with German translations and advice, graphics suggestions, etc. in this and other sections.