The Man Who Sold the Moon … in 1951

The Man Who Sold the Moon … in 1951 

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The Man Who Sold the Moon is a science fiction novella by Robert A. Heinlein written in 1949 and published in 1951. 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.
He asks fellow businessmen to invest in his venture.

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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.

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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.

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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, bribe—do 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.

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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. As Harriman predicted, once the first flight succeeds, many seek to invest in his venture to make more flights using a catapult launcherbuilt 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.”

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Now you may think that much of this is all just a little bit hard to swallow. Far from it. There are several real companies who will actually sell you a piece of land on the Moon at a very reasonable price. You can buy an acre of prime real-estate with an uninterrupted view of Earth for as little as $30. In fact, it is even possible to purchase parcels of land on Mars and Venus. Lunar-wise, you could do no better than to engage the services of MoonEstates.com or LunarLandOwner.com.

If you’re seeking something a little further afield, then BuyMars.com could be the answer to your prayers.

Oh, and there is a spoof website out there called BuyUranus.com. You really should pay them a visit. Go on … pick that spot on Uranus!

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3 responses to “The Man Who Sold the Moon … in 1951

  1. It was just bum-fluff!

  2. Actually I was quite a reader of Heinlein in my time – light Sci-fi but still entertaining!

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