War Theory: A Technical Analysis of War of the Worlds [Part 3]

By Daniel Duffy 15 May 2017 1

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. …Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.” – War of the Worlds

Part III – The Economics and Logistics of Interplanetary Invasion

It’s not clear how many tripods and associated equipment were loaded into each cylinder fired at Earth. As many as five tripods are described as rising out of the impact crater, along with earth moving equipment, a handling/construction machine and the parts for a flying machine. Also included are the Martian crew, and provisions (live Martian bipeds) The weight of the cylinder’s payload would be almost 6,000,000 kg.


The cylinder itself is described as bluntly bullet shaped with a maximum diameter at the base of 30 meters. That’s about the height of a war machine, allowing them to be stored in an upright and assembled position. Space would also be required for crew, fuel used for re-entry braking, equipment and instrumentation. The length of the cylinder is never described (its nose being buried in earth after landing) but is probably not longer than 150 meters, for a total volume of about 106,000 m^3. Assuming an average 1/10 meter thick ablation shell with insulation layers, the cylinder’s structure would take up about 2,000 M^3 with 104,000 M^3 of interior storage volume. If made of carbon nanotubes, the cylinder’s hull would weigh another 3,000,000 kg. With the addition fuel taking up half its storage volume (assumed to be metallic hydrogen with a density of 600 kg/M^3, see below) the weight of fuel for reentry would be another 31,000,000 kg. This makes the total weight of the cylinder, fuel and payload equivalent to 40,000,000 kg. By comparison the total weight of the largest man made rocket, the Saturn V of the Apollo moon missions, was 2,800,000 kg.

Launch from Mars would be much easier with its gravity of only 0.376 g - escape velocity on Mars in about half that of Earth (5.03 km/sec vs. 11.186 km/sec). Human astronomers observed what appears to be ten separate explosions on the Martian surface which they later take to be guns firing the cylinders. Though beloved of both Verne and Wells, using guns to launch spacecraft is not used for any number of reasons - not the least of which is the high initial acceleration at launch that would turn any occupant into chunky salsa, Martian or otherwise. Assuming the Martians lack exotic physics such as artificial gravity or negative gravity generators to dampen the forces of acceleration, a rail gun launch would seem to be the best explanation.


The energy required to launch 1 kg into Earth orbit is 32,900,000 j (or 9.14 kW hr). A launch from Mars would require 12,370,400 j per kg due to its lesser gravity. Therefore, a Martian cylinder would require almost 5 x 10^14 j with additional energy required to transfer to Earth orbit, decelerate and land. Some type of aerobraking in Earth’s atmosphere could be possible but there is no mention of Martian cylinders appearing in Earth’s skies like streaking meteors. On the other hand, there is the use of green colored propellant to reduces its velocity upon entry. Landing would not be an impact crash in any case as it would kill the occupants or even create an extinction level event.

Certainly, altitudinal jets would continue the cylinder’s deceleration when in Earth’s atmosphere unit it was safe enough to make a sliding landing in the English countryside. Given that cylinders are lacking in aerodynamic gliding properties, landing would depend entirely on engines. The fuel required for reentry would have to be extremely powerful and efficient. One fuel meets these requirements, metallic hydrogen. A substance only recently created in the laboratory, its energy content is such that an engine utilizing metallic hydrogen would have a specific impulse of 1700 sec compared to standard rocket fuel of 460 sec.

war of the worlds

The total energy required per cylinder launch and landing could be as high as 1 x 10^15 j. By comparison, the energy needed to launch a Saturn V into orbit was almost 9 x 10^12 j, or less than one hundredth of the energy needed to launch a Martian cylinder even from its lower gravity. And the Martians launched at least 10 such cylinders.

The Martians would have to be a truly advanced civilization to command energy levels of this magnitude. For a Martian civilization to treat a cylinder launch as the same percentage of total available energy as the Saturn V launches were to total American energy consumption, they would have to be rated as well above a Type 1 civilization on the Kardashev scale. Humanity is currently about a Type 0.7 and probably won’t obtain Type 1 status for another 100 to 200 years.

dead alien war worlds

What about supply on the ground? How did the Martians provision themselves? They lived off the land by ingesting Human blood. Given the oddities of Martian physiology (no internal digestive organs for example) their source of nourishment would be blood from their cattle bipeds (whose brain cases were large enough to allow for intelligence – a horrible fate for any intelligent species) - and us. And this practice may be the source of the disease that killed them. An advanced civilization like the Martians would not be ignorant of the existence of microbes. In their pre-invasion study of Earth its possible they could have at least determined the chemical signatures of various types of microbes in the Earth’s biosphere. And they could have easily filtered the air they breathed. What they did not count on is that certain microbes are only found in the Human body’s microbiome.

This resolves the Martian disease question: It was something they ate.

Tune in next week for the fourth and final part, as Daniel explores the Martian's grand-strategy and tactics as described in the original text.



Log in to join the discussion.

Related Posts from Wargamer