Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

By Gerard J. Degroot | Go to book overview

4
Sputnik

Within American politics, those to the left of Robert Heinlein numbered nearly two hundred million, while those to the right could hardly fill a bus. The science fiction novelist didn't think much of the way President Harry Truman was looking after the security of the United States. The nation, he thought, had a clear-cut and dangerous enemy, but was doing nothing substantial to confront it. Eager that Americans should wake up to the dangers threatening them, he decided to weave his political message into his fiction. The result was the film Destination Moon (1951), on which Heinlein collaborated with the director George Pal. In the film, a group of politically astute businessmen, fed up with the timid foreign policy of their government, decide to sponsor a private venture to travel to, land on, and colonize the Moon. At one point a retired general explains the project to a group of businessmen:

We are not the only ones who know the Moon can be reached. We're
not the only ones who are planning to go there. The race is on and we'd
better win it because there is absolutely no way to stop an attack from
outer space. The first country that can use the Moon for the launching
of missiles will control the Earth. That, gentlemen, is the most impor-
tant military fact of this century.1

Actually, it wasn't a fact at all. But fiction is often more exciting than the truth.

Truman struggled with the problem of maintaining American security while keeping the federal budget under control. His solution was nuclear weapons, a cheaper and more dependable alternative than a massive land army. His successor, Dwight Eisenhower, was equally frugal. “This country can choke itself to death piling up military expenditures just as surely as it can defeat itself by not spending enough for protection,” he repeatedly argued.2 Unfortunately, the safety afforded by nu

-45-

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Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1: Fly Me to the Moons 1
  • 2: Slaves to a Dream 12
  • 3: What Are We Waiting For? 29
  • 4: Sputnik 45
  • 5: The Red Rocket's Glare 61
  • 6: Muttnik 79
  • 7: Rocket Jocks 100
  • 8: Before This Decade is Out 121
  • 9: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters 153
  • 10: Lost in Space 183
  • 11: Sacrifices on the Altar of St. John 205
  • 12: Merry Christmas from the Moon 223
  • 13: Magnificent Desolation 233
  • 14: Nothing Left to Do 255
  • Notes 271
  • Bibliography 289
  • Index 293
  • About the Author 321
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