The Man Who Sold the Moon

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Front cover of the Shasta First Edition hardcover collection The Man Who Sold the Moon Shasta Ed.jpg
Front cover of the Shasta First Edition hardcover collection

"The Man Who Sold the Moon" is a science fiction novella by American author Robert A. Heinlein, written in 1949 and published in 1950. A part of his Future History and prequel to "Requiem", it covers events around a fictional first Moon landing in 1978 and the schemes of Delos D. Harriman, a businessman who is determined to personally reach and control the Moon.

Science fiction genre of fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".

Novella written, fictional, prose narrative normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel

A novella is a text of written, fictional, narrative prose normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, somewhere between 17,500 and 40,000 words.

Robert A. Heinlein American science fiction author

Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science-fiction writer, aeronautical engineer, and retired Naval officer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", He was among the first to emphasize scientific accuracy in his fiction, and was thus a pioneer of the subgenre of hard science fiction. His work continues to have an influence on the science-fiction genre, and on modern culture more generally.

Contents

Plot

Delos David "D. D." Harriman, "the last of the Robber Barons", is obsessed with being the first to travel toand possessthe Moon. He asks his business partner, George Strong, and other tycoons to invest in the venture. Most dismiss Harriman's plans as foolhardy: Nuclear rocket fuel is scarce as the space station that produces it blew up, also destroying the only existing spaceship. The necessary technology for a chemical-fueled rocket stretches the boundaries of current engineering. The endeavor is both incredibly costly and of uncertain profitability. One skeptic offers to sell "all of my interest in the Moon...for fifty cents"; Harriman accepts and tries to buy the other associates' interests as well. Strong and two others agree to back his plans.

Robber baron (industrialist)

"Robber baron" is a derogatory metaphor of social criticism originally applied to certain late 19th-century American businessmen who were accused of using unscrupulous methods to get rich, or expand their wealth, for example Cornelius Vanderbilt taking money from government-subsidized shippers, in order to not compete on their routes.

"Blowups Happen" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. It is one of two stories in which Heinlein, using only public knowledge of nuclear fission, anticipated the actual development of nuclear technology a few years later. The other story is "Solution Unsatisfactory", which is concerned with a nuclear weapon, although it is only a radiological "dirty bomb", not a nuclear explosive device.

The technical problems are solvable with money and talent. To solve the tougher financial problems, Harriman exploits commercial and political rivalries. He implies to the Moka-Coka company, for example, that rival soft drink maker 6+ plans to turn the Moon into a massive billboard, using a rocket to scatter black dust on the surface in patterns. To an anti-Communist associate, he suggests that the Russians may print the hammer and sickle across the face of the Moon if they get to it first. To a television network, he offers the Moon as a reliable and uncensorable broadcasting station.

Space advertising

Space advertising is the use of advertising in outer space or related to space flight. While there have only been a few examples of successful marketing campaigns, there have been several proposals to advertise in space, some even planning to launch giant billboards visible from the Earth. Obtrusive space advertising is the term used for such ventures.

Hammer and sickle Communist symbol

The hammer and sickle is a symbol of proletarian solidarity that was first adopted – as Russian: серп и мо́лот, translit. serp i mólot: "sickle and hammer" – during the Russian Revolution. At the time of its creation, the hammer stood for the proletariat and the sickle for the peasantry—combined they stood for the worker-peasant alliance for socialism. The sickle symbol resembles a sickle used to harvest grain crops and the hammer is one that would be used to make a razor sharp edge on a sickle or scythe.

A television network is a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay television providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small number of terrestrial networks. Many early television networks evolved from earlier radio networks.

Harriman seeks to avoid government ownership of the Moon. As it passes directly overhead only in a narrow band north and south of the equator, he uses a legal principle that states that property rights extend to infinity above a land parcel. On that basis, Mexico, Central and parts of South America, and other countries in those latitudes around the world, have a claim on the Moon. The United States also has a claim due to Florida and Texas. By arranging for many countries to assert their rights Harriman persuades the United Nations to, as a compromise, assign management of the Moon to his company.

Florida State of the United States of America

Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.

Money remains the main difficulty. Harriman liquidates his assets, risks bankruptcy, damages his marriage, and raises funds in numerous legitimate and semi-legitimate ways; "I", he says, "would cheat, lie, steal, beg, bribedo anything to accomplish what we have accomplished". Children donate money for a promise of all contributors' names engraved on a plaque left on the Moon. The names, however, will be microscopic in size. Harriman sells land and naming rights to craters, and plans to sell postal covers canceled on the Moon to collectors. He starts rumors that diamonds exist in moondust, intending to secretly place gems in the rocket to convince people that the rumors are true. Harriman will strenuously deny that the diamonds are from the Moon, being merely part of a scientific experiment; he expects people not to believe him, but he will not be guilty of actual fraud.

Naming rights financial transaction and form of advertising whereby a corporation or other entity purchases the right to name a facility or event, typically for a defined period of time

Naming rights are a financial transaction and form of advertising whereby a corporation or other entity purchases the right to name a facility or event, typically for a defined period of time. For properties like a multi-purpose arena, performing arts venue or an athletic field, the term ranges from three to 20 years. Longer terms are more common for higher profile venues such as a professional sports facility.

Cover (philately) outside envelope/cover of mailed item

In philately, the term cover pertains to the outside of an envelope or package with an address, typically with postage stamps that have been cancelled and is a term generally used among stamp and postal history collectors. The term does not include the contents of the letter or package, although they may add interest to the item if still present. Cover collecting plays an important role in postal history as many covers bear stamps, postmarks and other markings along with names and addresses all of which help to place a cover at a given time and place in history.

Cancellation (mail) postal marking to deface a stamp and prevent its re-use

A cancellation is a postal marking applied on a postage stamp or postal stationery to deface the stamp and prevent its re-use. Cancellations come in a huge variety of designs, shapes, sizes and colors. Modern cancellations commonly include the date and post office location where the stamps were mailed, in addition to lines or bars designed to cover the stamp itself. The term "postal marking" sometimes is used to refer specifically to the part that contains the date and posting location, although the term often is used interchangeably with "cancellation." The portion of a cancellation that is designed to deface the stamp and does not contain writing is also called the "obliteration" or killer. Some stamps are issued pre-cancelled with a printed or stamped cancellation and do not need to have a cancellation added. Cancellations can affect the value of stamps to collectors, positively or negatively. The cancellations of some countries have been extensively studied by philatelists and many stamp collectors and postal history collectors collect cancellations in addition to the stamps themselves.

Harriman wants to be on the first flight of the Pioneer but the ship only has room for one pilot, Leslie LeCroix. The multistage rocket launches from Peterson Field, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, lands on the Moon, and returns to Earth. Harriman is the first to open the rocket's hatch; the canceled postal covers were left behind to save weight and he needs to get them aboard surreptitiously. While doing so, he asks LeCroix for the "lunar" diamonds. The pilot complies, then produces real lunar diamonds as well.

Multistage rocket rocket that uses two or more stages

A multistage rocket, or step rocket, is a launch vehicle that uses two or more rocket stages, each of which contains its own engines and propellant. A tandem or serial stage is mounted on top of another stage; a parallel stage is attached alongside another stage. The result is effectively two or more rockets stacked on top of or attached next to each other. Two-stage rockets are quite common, but rockets with as many as five separate stages have been successfully launched.

Peterson Air Force Base base of the United States Air Force

Peterson Air Force Base is a U.S. Air Force Base that shares an airfield with the adjacent Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, home to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the Air Force Space Command headquarters, and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) headquarters. Developed as a World War II air support base for Camp Carson, the facility conducted Army Air Forces training and supported Cold War air defense centers at the nearby Ent Air Force Base, Chidlaw Building, and Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The base has been the location of the Air Force Space Command headquarters since 1987 and has had NORAD/NORTHCOM command center operations since the 2006 Cheyenne Mountain Realignment placed the nearby Cheyenne Mountain Complex centers on standby.

Colorado Springs, Colorado Home rule municipality in Colorado, United States

Colorado Springs is a home rule municipality that is the largest city by area in Colorado as well as the county seat and the most populous municipality of El Paso County, Colorado, United States. Colorado Springs is located in the east central portion of the state. It is situated on Fountain Creek and is located 60 miles (97 km) south of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver.

As Harriman predicted, once the first flight succeeds, many seek to invest in his venture to make more flights using a catapult launcher built on Pikes Peak. The next flight will begin a lunar colony. Harriman intends to be on the ship, but the majority owners of the venture object to his presence on the flight; he is too valuable to the company to risk in space. The rocket leaves without Harriman, who "looks as Moses must have looked, when he gazed out over the promised land."

The Man Who Sold the Moon is also the title of two collections of Heinlein's short stories. Both collections include "Let There Be Light", "The Roads Must Roll", and "Requiem"; the first also includes "Life-Line" and "Blowups Happen".

Although the science fiction film Destination Moon is generally described as being based on Heinlein's novel Rocket Ship Galileo , the story in fact bears a much closer resemblance to The Man Who Sold the Moon. However, the technology of The Man Who Sold the Moon is very different: its rocket is multi-staged, while Destination Moon uses a single-stage-to-orbit spaceship that takes off and lands vertically, both on Earth and the Moon. (Dialogue in the film makes it very clear that the spaceship is nuclear powered.)

The novella also inspired David Bowie's song "The Man Who Sold the World", in both its title and its central themes. [1]

Influence on other Heinlein works

Harriman appears in "Requiem" as an old man who has still not been able to go to the Moon. It was published in 1940, 11 years before The Man Who Sold the Moon.

The name "Harriman" reappears in many Future History stories as the name of various businesses and foundations, indicating that Harriman's impact on that timeline is significant. The name is also used in Variable Star , a novel outlined by Heinlein but written by Spider Robinson following Heinlein's death; the novel diverges from the Future History.

See also

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References

  1. FP Staff (10 Jan 2018). "From Space Oddity to Modern Love: The essential David Bowie playlist". Showsha.com. Retrieved 3 September 2018.