President Barbicane is one of the many characters in the works of Jules Verne occupying a position on the fine line between madness and eccentricity. A colorful character with a powerful, overactive imagination, Barbicane is very much in the tradition of Phileas Fogg, Captain Nemo, and Otto Lidenbrock.
As well as being one of life's eccentrics, Barbicane is nothing if not ambitious. To the astonishment of his fellow members of the Baltimore Gun Club, he announces a daring plan to build a projectile capable of reaching the Moon. Over half a century after man first walked on the Moon, such a goal is no longer the stuff of science fiction. But to a late 19th-century audience, the very idea of traveling to the Moon would've been truly astonishing.
The members of Barbicane's audience at the gun club are so astonished by his plan that Barbicane has to wait a full ten minutes before resuming his speech: so great has been the commotion caused by his big announcement.
When Barbicane finally has a chance to speak, he starts to put a little more flesh on the bones of his plan. He tells the assembled throng that he's looked very carefully at the question of traveling to the Moon and, by his “incontrovertible” calculations, has worked out that a projectile with an initial velocity of twelve thousand yards per second will necessarily reach the Moon if aimed at it. This is a bold claim indeed, and Barbicane is determined to demonstrate that it is no mere flight of fancy.