Armstrong was the first human to step foot on the moon, but Aldrin holds the title as the first man to urinate on it. Fully aware that he was on a live radio feed, Aldrin kept that bit of information to himself. Have you ever wondered what the moon smells like? When Aldrin and Armstrong, caked with moon dust, returned to the Eagle lander, they reported that the moon smelled a bit like wet ashes and gunpowder.
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Pressurizing the cabin upon their return was in itself a worrisome operation: some folks believed lunar dust was flammable, and would ignite as soon as it came in contact with oxygen. We all remember that iconic video feed beamed to hundreds of millions of earthlings in , but the video was actually captured in higher quality than we ever saw. NASA used a scan converter to adapt the video for U.
However, thanks to technology, you can watch restored versions of the moon landing. Although every man on the Apollo 11 mission returned to Earth safely, they left plenty of artifacts back on the moon. But with the publication of the first part of his new diptych, Luna: New Moon, Ian McDonald has produced the first major new work set on the Moon for some years, and there are rumors that others may be on the way, so the Moon may yet see a renaissance.
One final oddity, in researching this list we found no major work of lunar science fiction by a woman. This is strange; look at any other theme or sub-genre within science fiction and it is almost impossible not to find a wealth of important contributions by women writers, but not the Moon.
Now I am sure we have missed something obvious, and before long we'll have people queuing up to tell us so. But for the moment it looks as though the Moon, Selene, which is always presented as female in mythology, has somehow failed to attract a female writer. We wonder why that might be so.
The lifecycle of our Sun
The Luna colony was an essential stage in his future history, the first sustained movement away from earth and the first step in learning a new independence. This all comes together in what is perhaps his best novel, a book that also encapsulates the science fiction view of the Moon before the actual Moon landing. In this novel the Moon is a successful colony, but its economic and political independence is restricted by the Earth government. Eventually, the colonists revolt in a story that repeats the story of American independence but with the additional dangers of an unforgiving landscape, but with the great advantage of being able to bombard Earth simply by launching rocks at it.
This Hugo winning novel is quite simply the most vivid and memorable account of life on the Lunar colony that science fiction has produced. First Men in the Moon was the last of the great run of genre-defining scientific romances that Wells wrote in the first years of his career, it is also the only novel he wrote that is not set upon the Earth. Using a fanciful anti-gravity device known as Cavorite, two late-Victorian adventurers find themselves hurtling through space to the Moon.
There, in caves below the surface, they discover a race of advanced insectoid aliens known as the Selenites. Selenite society is peaceful but strictly controlled, with individuals bred to fill very specific social and economic roles. It's a frightening vision of a society that comes close to being a hive mind and which clearly influenced hive mind societies in later science fictions, such as Frank Herbert's Hellstrom's Hive.
The novel's influence continues up to the present day. Ian McDonald's diptych, Luna: New Moon and its forthcoming sequel, Luna: Wolf Moon, is the first full-blooded description of a lunar colony that science fiction has seen for decades. It's a vivid, dramatic story that is breathing new life into the Moon as a setting for science fiction. Here the lunar colony is a brutal world where resources are so scarce that every breath of air, every sip of water, has to be paid for.
Inevitably, in such an unforgiving setting, the tough rise to the top, and the Moon is divided between a handful of ruthless family-controlled corporations. In a story that is a cross between Dallas and The Godfather, McDonald describes the outbreak of a war between these families, a war in which megadeath is all too easy to arrange.
Now he turns that talent to the Moon, and the usually rather sterile image of the lunar colony becomes a place of colour and fashion, and bloodshed. This is likely to be the most influential Moon novel of the 21st century. A successful venture capitalist with billions in the bank, Mike Cohen has it all figured out. Brainocytes transform the human experience, making you smarter, faster, and more powerful. With enemies at every turn, Mike must use his newly enhanced capabilities to save his family, his friends, and ultimately, the world.
In the days of the Cold War, the Moon became either a symbol of freedom as it was in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress , or the opposite, an image of alienation, mystery and threat. And no novel evoked that sense better than Rogue Moon. At the time, the Moon was believed to present the same face to Earth at all times, so there was a mysterious, unseen, dark side of the Moon, which was an appropriate location for menace.
It is on the dark side that an alien installation has been discovered in this novel. The artefact is a maze, and everyone who tries to penetrate it is killed. People are sent there by matter transmitter, but each time they are killed in the labyrinth it affects their sanity back on Earth, until one man is found who is unaffected by being killed over and over again, until gradually he penetrates to the very heart of the mystery. This is one of the most profound of all Cold War thrillers, in which death is the price of discovery.
Godwin was Bishop of Hereford, and this extraordinary story was discovered among his papers after his death. Read today it is hard to realise what an amazing work it was, incorporating scientific ideas that wouldn't become commonly known for many years, and at the same time having an unexpected effect upon scientific thought. It is the story of Domingo Gonsales, a luckless picaresque anti-hero, who, after various adventures, finds himself cast away on the island of St Helena.
In an attempt to escape, he builds a carriage which he harnesses to a flock of wild geese in the hope that they will carry him away to the mainland. But, in keeping with the common ideas of the time, the geese migrate to the Moon and Gonsales is carried away with them. On the journey he experiences weightlessness, long before that became accepted scientific knowledge. On the Moon he discovers an entire society of tall, pale beings, where greater moral worth is reflected in greater height; because Gonsales is small and dark, therefore, he is soon cast out and returned to Earth.
This was the first work of any sort to imagine a mechanical means of conveyance to the Moon. When it appeared, in , John Wilkins had just published a work that represented the very latest scientific thinking about the Moon, and in the light of Godwin's fiction, Wilkins produced a revised edition of his own book in which he discussed for the first time the scientific feasibility of creating a means of travel to the Moon.
The book also influenced generations of science fiction writers, up to and including Jules Verne, so it can be fairly claimed to be one of the most influential books in the entire history of science fiction. This is one of those short, intense novels that encapsulates all the dangers of life on the space frontier in one gripping episode. In this case, a cruise ship on one of the dust seas of the Moon sinks, and a race against time follows to locate the ship and rescue the passengers.
But throughout the story the realities of life on the lunar colony keep intruding to shorten the odds and spell out what life in space is really like. The air supply aboard the ship is limited, the build-up of heat induces CO2 poisoning, metal-rich dust gets into the double hull and short circuits the batteries, the liquid oxygen stored aboard the ship threatens to explode.
It is such a simple story, and yet the introduction of danger after danger makes it an absolutely gripping read. Our knowledge of the Moon has changed quite a bit in the half a century or so since this was written, but it remains a vivid example of how sf writers of the golden age were true to then scientific knowledge about the reality of life on the Moon.
Extraordinary Voyages. Talking of scientific knowledge, one of the fascinating things about this early account of a journey to the Moon is that Verne dispatches his space voyagers from a base not too far from Cape Canaveral in Florida, anticipating the actual space centre by nearly a century. Less reassuring is the fact that the space capsule is fired from a gigantic cannon, a means of propulsion that would, in reality, have flattened everyone in the craft. That aside, this novel and its sequel illustrate the fascination that the idea of travel to the Moon has held for so long.
The first novel concerns the building of the giant cannon, and ends with the three travellers fired successfully into space. The sequel describes their journey to the Moon, their orbit around it, and their return to Earth, ending eventually with a splashdown in the sea. Leaving aside the notion of using a cannon to fire a projectile at the Moon, this was one of the most scientifically accurate of the early Moon voyages, and in many ways anticipated the actual nature of the NASA missions a hundred years later. This is one of a trilogy of novels that Baxter wrote exploring what might have happened if the history of NASA had gone differently.
In this instance, he imagines that the Apollo 18 mission actually went ahead, but among the Moon rocks it brought back was a strange substance described as "moonseed". The resulting cosmic radiation that bathes the Earth triggers the moonseed, which starts to disintegrate the planet by heating up the core.
No More Secrets
In a desperate race against time to escape the inevitable destruction of the Earth, a team of scientists attempt to terraform the Moon to provide a refuge. Like all too many of Baxter's novels, this is a story that ends with the destruction of the Earth; but it creates an unusual mixture of Moon novel and disaster novel that is terrifyingly convincing in its detail. Eight Worlds. Alien invaders have obliterated human life on Earth, and the survivors have scattered through the rest of the Solar System. The most heavily populated colony is Luna, the Steel Beach of the title. Here a dystopian society has developed in which the Central Computer controls every aspect of life.
The story follows a journalist, Hildy Johnson, who begins to uncover groups of people hiding from the Central Computer, and in the course of the research learns secrets about the Central Computer that threaten the stability and even the survival of the entire colony. Between the last manned mission to the Moon and the renewed technological interest in a lunar colony that we are beginning to see in the 21st century, the Moon tended to be of interest less for realistic accounts of life on the Moon than as a setting for satire.
This dystopia is a superb example of the way the Moon served that purpose. There has been a theory put about that the Moon's gravitational influence played a part in the development of intelligence on Earth; here, Bob Shaw turns that idea on its head. It turns out that humanity had long-since colonised the galaxy and developed instantaneous teleportation; then civilisation collapsed.
The human society that grew up on Earth has been prevented from developing teleportation precisely because of the gravitational influence of the Moon. Now the humanoid Mollan have decided to solve that problem by simply blowing up the Moon.
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The story is told through the relationship of an irascible human male and an exile Mollan female, whose brusque, often acerbic encounters provide a wonderful window into human and Mollan societies, and into the details of this deeply disturbing plan. Since his death, Shaw's work has probably not had the recognition it deserves, perhaps because he tended to work on a small canvas where the major effects were emotional rather than spectacular.
But when he got it right, he was unbeatable at presenting mind-blowing ideas in a vivid and accessible way; and even if The Ceres Solution is not his absolute best, it still deserves to be high on this list. Before he became the most influential editor in the history of science fiction, Campbell was an author of remarkable, scientifically savvy stories that clearly presaged the golden age he helped to bring in. This fine novella is an excellent example of why he should be celebrated as an author as much as as an editor.
Even since Daniel Defoe, people have been writing robinsonades in which individuals or small groups are cast upon inhospitable islands. In works like No Man Friday and The Martian, science fiction writers have reimagined that desert island as Mars, but long before that Campbell had set this remarkable robinsonade on the Moon. It's the story of a small group of scientists whose spaceship crashes on the Moon.
They then have to combine their expertise in order to survive until they can be rescued, which means devising a shelter to protect them from meteor showers and finding a way to manufacture enough oxygen for them to breathe. With his precise attention to technical details, Campbell set the scene for the lunar stories to come throughout the Golden Age. Known Space. One of the joys of combining science fiction and the detective story is the way that life on another world or with different technology can complicate the crime, while the patient solution of the crime helps to explain the setting.
And that's exactly what we get with Niven's novel. It was the fourth novel he wrote featuring his detective Gil Hamilton. In this instance, Hamilton is on the Moon to attend a conference on Lunar Law when one of the other delegates is shot. The shot seems to have come from outside on the lunar surface, and the only person who was out on the surface at the time is someone Hamilton is convinced must be innocent. It's only surprising there aren't more crime stories set on the Moon: solving the crime really is an excellent way of solving the puzzle of what it's like on the Moon.
The Moon. Given the colourful planetary romances that were so popular before and after the First World War, it would have been surprising if the Moon hadn't featured. But this version, while as exotic and as full of action as anything else by Burroughs, is rather different from his usual fare. It's set in a future where the First World War was just a preamble for the communist world and the rest that lasts until the ultimate victory of the US and UK in the s.
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To celebrate the global peace, a mission is sent to the Moon, only to discover unsuspected races living below the surface like Wells's Selenites. Among these are the evil Kalkars, who join up with a rogue Earthman to invade Earth. The Moon shouldn't just be a place of technological challenges, it should be associated with wild adventure also.
And that's exactly what Burroughs provides. One of the things we see time and again on this list is that the Moon is very often presented as a threat, whether it's the threat of invasion in Burroughs or the threat of destruction in Baxter. But this could be the ultimate threat. A comet is going to hit the Moon; and when it does the fallout is going to have a devastating effect right across the Earth.
What will happen to the newly-established Moonbase? And what can the President of the USA do to prevent panic and ensure the survival of his people? McDevitt has always been an accomplished writer of stories about people facing massive and complex decisions, and as the focus of this novel shifts between the Earth and the Moon the decisions don't come much more massive, or more complex.
Like Rogue Moon, which came out at around the same time, and presaging Arthur C. Clarke's , A Space Odyssey in odd ways, this is a novel about the Moon as mystery. The hero is a prospector, hoping to strike it rich, but without very much luck. In the end he has to take a wild gamble, so he heads for the mysterious crater, Tycho. Thirty years before, two ships and nearly a dozen astronauts disappeared without trace in Tycho; since then, two further expeditions have vanished, so now, no one wants to go near the crater.
But Chris Jackson doesn't really have a choice, and the alien artefact he finds there will change everything, for ever. This is a tightly written and very effective short novel, but Simak still finds the space to include lots of fascinating incidental detail about life in the lunar outback.
If many of the stories we've included on this list treat the Moon as a threat, there are equally those, like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Steel Beach, in which the Moon is a refuge, whether from earth politics or from the destruction of Earth. And that's what we get in this novella: a thermonuclear war back on Earth leaves the small lunar colony isolated.
But survival isn't easy, many go mad, fighting breaks out, terrifying gases are unleashed within the lunar habitat. In the end, a handful of people face having to restore order.