Our lunar neighbor has inspired stories since the first humans looked up at the sky and saw its gray, cratered face. Some observers saw among the craters the shape of a person's face, so stories refer to a mysterious "man in the moon." Hungrier observers compared its craters to cheese and dreamed of an entire sphere made of delicious dairy products.
Jules Verne's 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon is often credited with inspiring real-life rocket pioneers such as Robert Goddard and Hermann Oberth. While the novel is science fiction, Verne made a few interesting and accurate predictions.
- The United States would launch the first manned vehicle to go to the moon.
- The shape and size of the vehicle would closely resemble the Apollo command/service module spacecraft.
- The number of men in the crew would be three.
- A competition for the launch site would ensue between Florida and Texas which actually was resolved in Congress in the 1960s with Kennedy Space Center as the Flordia launch site and Houston, Texas, as the Mission Control Center.
- A telescope would be able to view the progress of the journey. When Apollo 13 exploded, a telescope at Johnson Space Center witnessed the event which happened more than 200,000 miles from Earth.
- The Verne spacecraft would use retro-rockets which became a technology assisting Neil Armstrong and his crewmates in their journey to the Moon.
- Verne predicted weightlessness although his concept was slightly flawed in thinking it only was experienced at the gravitational midpoint of the journey (when the Moon and Earth gravity balanced).
- The first men to journey to the Moon would return to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean just where Apollo 11 splashed down in July of 1969 one hundred and six years after the initial pulbication of the novel.
The moon made its film debut in a 1902 black and white silent French film called Le Voyage Dans la Lune (a trip to the moon). And a year before astronauts walked on the moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) told the story of astronauts on an outpost on the moon. Decades later, it is still widely regarded as the best science fiction movie ever made.
In reality, while we do not yet have a moon colony, spacecraft have left lots of debris on the lunar surface, and astronauts have planted six American flags on the moon. But that doesn't mean the United States has claimed it; in fact, an international law written in 1967 prevents any single nation from owning planets, stars, or any other natural objects in space.