The story opens some time after the end of the American Civil War. The Baltimore Gun Club, a society dedicated to the design of weapons of all kinds (especially cannons), comes together when Impey Barbicane, its president, calls them to support his latest idea. He's done some calculations, and believes that they could construct a cannon capable of shooting a projectile to the Moon. After receiving the support of his companions, another meeting is held to decide the place from which the projectile will be fired, the dimensions and materials of both the cannon and the projectile, and which kind of powder they are to use.
An old enemy of Barbicane, a Captain Nicholl of Philadelphia, designer of plate armor, declares that the entire enterprise is absurd and makes a series of bets with Barbicane, each of them of increasing amount, over the impossibility of such feat.
The first obstacle, the money to construct the giant cannon (and against which Nicholl has bet 1,000 dollars), is raised from a number of countries in America and Europe. Notably, the U.S. gives four million dollars, while England does not give a farthing, but in the end, nearly five and a half million dollars are raised, which ensures the financial feasibility of the project.
Stone's Hill in "Tampa Town", Florida is chosen as the site for the cannon's construction. The Gun Club travels there and starts the construction of the Columbiad cannon, which requires the excavation of a 900-foot-deep (270 m) and 60-foot-wide (18 m) circular hole, which is made in the nick of time, but a surprise awaits Barbicane: Michel Ardan, a French adventurer, plans to travel aboard the projectile.
During a meeting between Ardan, the Gun Club, and the inhabitants of Florida, Nicholl appears and challenges Barbicane to a duel. The duel is stopped when Ardan—having been warned by J. T. Maston, secretary of the Gun Club—meets the rivals in the forest where they have agreed to duel. Meanwhile, Barbicane finds the solution to the problem of surviving the incredible acceleration that the explosion would cause. Ardan suggests that Barbicane and Nicholl travel with him in the projectile, and the proposition is accepted.
In the end, the projectile is successfully launched, but the destinies of the three astronauts are left inconclusive. The sequel, Around the Moon, deals with what happens to the three men in their travel from the Earth to the Moon.
From the Earth to the Moon | Part-1
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