Monday, 25 February 2013

Comparing Histories

Robert Heinlein's Future History presents, among other things:

the first Moon landing in The Man Who Sold The Moon;
interplanetary travel in The Green Hills Of Earth;
a future revolution in Revolt In 2100;
interstellar travel in Methuselah's Children and Orphans Of The Sky.

One of Poul Anderson's short future histories, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), presents interplanetary travel, a future revolution and interstellar travel in a single volume of seven stories, six Interludes, a Prologue and an Epilogue.

Heinlein's interplanetary travelers colonize the Moon, Mars and Venus and, after the revolution, move an asteroid. Anderson's colonize the Asteroid Belt, descend into the Jovian atmosphere and, after their revolution, also move an asteroid.

Heinlein shows us the first two interstellar spaceships and two extrasolar planets whereas Anderson, on this occasion, shows us only the first interstellar spaceship still in flight - although he more than compensates for this in many other works.

Surprisingly, Isaac Asimov's equivalent volume is I, Robot, with experimental robots on Mercury, a space station and the asteroids and a first interstellar spaceship. Larry Niven's early Known Space stories catalogue the exploration of Mercury, Venus, Pluto and Mars and the colonization of the Belt; interstellar travel comes later.

The fifth story in Tales Of The Flying Mountains, "Que Donn'rez Vous?," presents a technical problem, how to rescue a man whose spaceship is sinking into the Jovian atmosphere. In each of the preceding stories, there was a technical problem that was also political or military whereas this one is merely human. I will have to read on to learn the solution.

"Jupiter's surface was warm enough to have oceans like Earth's." (p. 177)

As I commented on Anderson's earlier novel, Three Worlds To Conquer, I understand that more recent data paint a different picture, i.e., that Jupiter is now thought to have no solid surface. Instead, there may or may not be a dense solid core. Above the core, if there is one, are an inner liquid layer and an outer gaseous one although with no definite boundary between them. The gas just gets denser with increasing depth. Not really a planet as we think of them. Perhaps more like a star though not as hot. 

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