The following conversation was recorded on December 14, 1972 and is one of the best kept secrets on the extensive shelves of NASA archives. It was three days after the Lunar Module Challenger landed on the south- east rim of Mare Serenitatis that astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt (of Apollo 17 mission) took their last stroll on the Moon and came across strange looking marks on the lunar surface:
CERNAN: Houston, we've got a problem here.
HOUSTON: Go ahead.
CERNAN: There seems to be lots of scratches here...they sure don't look to me like they were made by natural phenomena...
HOUSTON: What exactly are you talking about?
CERNAN: Well, there is this groove here...
SCHMITT: ...and there is one more over here too...and this looks like something really heavy was being dragged along here...
HOUSTON: Couldn't YOU have made those marks?
SCHMITT: Absolutely no way. We were working on the other side of the module all the time.
HOUSTON: Any footprints or anything like it?
CERNAN: Uhmmm, not really. There are only these...sort of sharp marks here.
After few more minutes of puzzled conversation Cernan was given prompt orders to leave and a few weeks later the Apollo program was terminated. Apparently, NASA officials had no interest in unearthing (or should we say unmooning) any further evidence of somebody else's presence on the Moon long before the Apollo mission was even conceived. The question, however, remains. Who made those scratches on the lunar surface? Was it a man or somebody from outer space? How did he/she get there? The answers to all of these questions lie in the following simple fact. The first man on the Moon was neither an American nor a Russian astronaut, but the famous Czech inventor, poet, scientist, skier and gynecologist- amateur Jara da Cimrman who reached the Moon's surface on September 9, 1914 in his home-made squirrel-propelled submarine "Nemovitost".
Cimrman's route to Hamburg was relatively straightforward. From Liptakov he walked a few kilometers when he was overtaken by a horse cart. He asked for a ride and on the same day reached the nearby river Labe. There he used his last money to persuade a small freighter captain to hide him on the lower deck of his boat which carried Czech coal to the sea-port of Hamburg. On his way, which took 5 days, Cimrman studied the sailing charts and also debugged his latest invention, a device whose purpose was to synthetize yogurt out of the minerals and organic matter contained in sea water. He thought that the long and presumably boring submarine trip would be a good time to test it.
Cimrman's life in Hamburg was far from a luxurious one. He lived in an abandoned storage house where he was throwing the submarine together out of materials which he found in the surrounding area or stole from the harbor. Not having any money, Jara felt very hungry and after three days of fasting, decided to take a break and invent the "hamburger", whose recipe he sold to a local fast-food chain for 20 DM. Well, Cimrman wasn't a good businessman (at least not at that time) and he soon realised that, besides food, he would also need a fuel for his submarine and that for 20 DM he couldn't get more than a few pounds of coal which would be hardly enough to get him out of the harbor. Cimrman was sorry that he sold his hamburger recipe so cheaply and briskly invented freiburgers, ludwigsburgers, wartburgers and an ABQ (the predecessor of BBQ), but nobody gave a damn any more. The market was already saturated with hamburgers. Despondent, he roamed through a city park when suddenly the frolicking squirrels reminded him of something.
A few years before when he visited the house of Liptakov gamekeeper Josef Borovicka, he saw a small toy cart propelled by a squirrel running in a drum which was attached to it. The rotation of the drum, caused by the running squirrel was transferred via a system of gears and axles to run the whole cart. Heureka! What cheap power! Over the next two days, Jara spent a lot of time catching squirrels in the city parks. At the end of the second day, the panting Cimrman counted and then, not believing his eyes, re-counted his prey but in both cases the result was 2. That wasn't much if we take into account that during the chase one of the squirrels tripped over a root, sprained its ankle and became unusable for Cimrman's purposes. Jara did not capitulate, however, and came up with one of his best inventions ever: a semi-convertible hydraulic squirrel trap with A/C and power windows. It's no wonder that squirrels went nuts over it. As a matter of fact, wherever Jara placed his trap, the excited animals literally dashed in and usually incurred minor or major head injuries, which later compelled Cimrman to install air bags in it. But on the whole, the contraption worked and the next day Cimrman selected 96 healthiest and fittest squirrels and got ready for the departure.
As we said earlier, his submarine wasn't very spacious and so he left most of his belongings in Hamburg and took with him only the real basics plus one small revolver in the unlikely case of squirrel mutiny. To get an idea of how minimal Cimrman's cargo was, here is a complete list of food he carried with himself: 9 kg of bread, 17 litres of water and 5 kg of hazelnuts. Strictly speaking, we should add his yogurt maker, even though the prudent Cimrman didn't want to count on it too much.
On the eve of his departure Cimrman went to the docks, fed the squirrels and, under the veil of night, christened his submarine with a bottle of mineral water from Karlovy Vary. At first, he wanted to name the submarine "Cimrmanovitost", but then his inborn modesty prevailed and he changed the name to "Nemovitost", paying homage to Jules Verne's legendary captain Nemo. When he returned from the docks he felt homesick a bit and wrote a political pamphlet "From Hamburg against Habsburg" in which he promised his fellow Czechs that he would see to it that the days of foreign oppression in Bohemia were numbered. The pamphlet was sent the morning of the next day and in the evening Cimrman set off, bound for America from where he intended to launch his guerilla war against Austria-Hungary. Some sources also say that he hired another Czech defector Hans Veverka as a squirrel feeder. We will, however, leave this question unanswered.
In the first few days the squirrels were doing fine and Great Britain was soon left behind. After that, however, Cimrman noticed that the speed was slowly dropping and squirrels were showing the first signs of fatigue. To maintain at least some progress, he had to put the squirrels on shifts. Each day only half of them were running, while the other half had a day off. Cimrman was slightly worried about this, because he didn't want to see the hungry rodents loitering around the submarine and getting all kinds of weird ideas. That's why he decided to teach them singing, thus forestalling any wrong activity on their part. He made a little choir out of them and for two days sang old national folksongs in front of them. Squirrels kept quiet. Indeed, thought Cimrman, how foolish to try to make squirrels sing in such a difficult language as Czech. And from then on he taught them only neutral singing phrases such as "la-la-la" or "shoo-bee-doo-bee". Full of new energy and with all the patience he could muster he spent 14 more days in front of his little choir. The squirrels were much less enthusiastic, of course, and most of the time only stared at him or took a little nap if they were lucky enough to get the back seats. After two weeks of tedious practice Cimrman gave up and finished this chapter by a laconic comment in his diary:"The damn squirrels just won't sing!".
His yogurt maker didn't turn out to be a big success either. After 4 days of running it in the sea water it did produce some distantly whitish cream, but Cimrman wasn't quite sure about the result and he fed it first to his favorite squirrel Zrzecka. After she failed to exhibit any life signs for 3 consecutive days, Zrzecka was declared dead and Cimrman put his yogurt-maker on ice. It was no wonder that his mood these days was predominantly dismal. Steadily approaching the shores of America, he only frowned from behind the rudder and the hazelnut rations were cut in half. But his unexpected triumph was just behind the door. Even though physically he was 20 feet below the water surface somewhere near Bermuda Island, the moon was just within his reach. How so?
To understand what happened, we have to make a small excursion into physics. It is known that the space-time continuum in which we all live is not as smooth as scientists always assumed. As a matter of fact, there have been a number of results justifying the existence of so called "wormholes". These can be thought of as some kind of short cuts through the space-time and became a popular means of transportation in sci-fi literature. While most of the wormholes span inter-galactic distances, the existence of shorter wormholes within the Solar system cannot be excluded and, as luck would have it, it was one of the shorter ones that Cimrman dove into during his journey. This wormhole connected the Earth with the Moon and its earthly entrance was in the Bermuda area, where Cimrman, not suspecting anything fishy, happened to be traveling in his submarine.
All of a sudden, on the morning of September 9th, Cimrman was awoken by a series of rather harsh jolts followed by squirrels' whining. At first Cimrman thought that his singing lessons finally bore some fruit, but then he noticed unusual lights outside the submarine. The whole vessel began to shake and rolled from side to side until everything plunged into a big silence and darkness. Cimrman was on the moon, just a few hundred yards from the future landing place of Apollo 17.
At first, Cimrman thought that the squirrels became unsynchronized and he had crash landed on the ocean floor. Indeed, the only thing he could see was a bizarre landscape, a lack of any kind of life and dark horizons - something easily mistaken for the ocean depths. Jara was awed by the majestic serenity of the surroundings and he named his landing site "Mare Serenitatis", "mare" being the latin word for "a sea". (sea for Cimrman, of course :-)
But then he looked up through a small window in the hatch to what he thought would be the ocean surface and there saw the earth, solemnly hovering in space. He pinched himself first, but the Earth was still there. He pinched all of his squirrels, but the Earth didn't move a single bit. Slowly, Cimrman realised the unbelievable reality. It took him 80 days to get from Liptakov to the Moon. Being naturally excited, he forgot to correct his previous mistake and in his log book he still referred to the place as "Mare Serenitatis". Later this mistake became canonized by other lunatics (i.e. scientists interested in the Moon) and all the major plains on the lunar surface were named "mare", even though they had nothing to do with real seas.
Being an avid explorer, Cimrman was looking forward to his first walk on the Moon's surface. He was indeed glad that he had packed his old diving suit made out of his doubly impregnated raincoat. He didn't have any oxygen tanks though, and so as a makeshift, he filled 4 empty beer bottles with the air from the submarine and, after closing them tightly, put them in his bag (for Cimrman's later work on transportation of air see the Appendix). There was one more thing, however, which had to be taken care of before his walk. Cimrman was afraid that his shoes would leave clear shoemarks on the pristine Moon's surface and, since he knew that the Austrian Secret Police had his shoeprints in their archives, he was worried that they might find his whereabouts, which he wanted to keep secret from them at any cost. So for his moon-walking he decided to use improvised stilts, whose sharp marks in the lunar dust later so baffled the Apollo 17 astronaut H. H. Schmitt.
If there were any Martians on the Moon at that time waiting for some earthlings to come in a shiny spaceship and fancy spacesuits, they would certainly be amused by watching Cimrman awkwardly staggering on his stilts around the rusty submarine and every few seconds taking a sip of the air from the 4 beer bottles which he carried in his worn-out bag. Fortunately, there was nobody on the Moon and so Cimrman could perform his scientific experiments with all the due dignity. An interested reader should consult Cimrman's recently discovered paper "Snapping Fingers in the Vacuum" for more details. Last but not least we have to mention that Cimrman used this forced landing to bury the victim of his yogurt experiment, the poor squirrel Zrzecka. Zrzecka thus became the first squirrel on the Moon (in memoriam) and to the best of our knowledge, so far the only one.
During his moon walk Cimrman also noticed a little cave in the moon rock and decided to spend the night there. He dragged the submarine under the overhanging cliff and jumped in just in time before the submarine disappeared in the convolutions of the space-time loops. It turned out that the cave was the lunar entrance of the wormhole, connecting the Moon with the Earth. What happened after that is merely a matter of speculation because there are no conclusive records about Cimrman's further activity. So far the most plausible version claims that Cimrman reached the USA, where he sold specimens of the Moon's rock to the Barnum&Bailey circus and became an entrepreneur. It is ironic that nobody ever believed that those rocks actually came from the Moon and yet they were some of the few genuine things in the Barnum&Bailey's arsenal. Cimrman also allegedly sold his yogurt maker to a street vendor, who subsequently became a big tycoon in the rat poison industry.
As an example of what kind of phenomena we are talking about, let us remind the reader of the last exchange between the flight 19 and the control tower.
FLIGHT 19: Control tower, this is an emergency.
We can't make out where we are.
TOWER: Head due west.
FLIGHT 19: Everything looks wrong. Even the ocean looks strange.
(then there is a puzzled silence and finally)
FLIGHT 19: We are not certain where we are...it looks we are...
(and here the record ends)
There is no doubt that flight 19 reached the Moon. And in all probability so did all of the other ships and planes sent into the area. Unfortunately, none of them ever returned, because Cimrman forgot to disclose how to get back to the Earth. And mankind had to wait til 1969, when the Apollo program found a new and safer (even though a bit longer) route to the Moon. But Cimrman's pioneering work will not be forgotten. After all, he was not only the first man on the Moon, but also the first cimrMAN on the Moon and that brought us such goodies as luna parks, moon pies and a vacuum cleaner.
As far as what exactly the filling medium should be, Cimrman was of an
opinion that it really didn't matter, but based on his extensive
experience in the field he would recommend either crude oil or
herbal tea for the best results.