MSL Liftoff and Moon Cannon

As an astronomy geek, I simply had to share this one, the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory:



Apart from the obvious science and sheer power of technology involved in here, it is also interesting to see how much actual space travel differs from early visions.
Although rockets have been around for centuries, even millenia, they were not seriously considered as methods for space exploration until the early 20th century.

Visionaries like Jules Vernes and H.G. Wells came up with very different solutions to get people to other planets. Jule Verne suggested a moon cannon, Wells and anti-gravity material called cavorite.

The moon cannon of "From the Earth to the Moon" fiering
Cannons remained the favourite tool for space exploration for a comparatively long time, but thus far, no large object has been brought even into orbit via cannon. Project HARPwas the closest anyone has ever gotten to turning a space cannon into reality. The project has long been abandoned.

Abandoned HARP Gun
The remains of the HARP Gun

Antigravity of course is completely out of the question, since the concept violates our understanding of how gravity works.

In the end, that’s OK, because we have tried, tested and functional rocket technology, and I can hardly wait for the Curiosity Rover to reach Mars.