Moon landings in fiction

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Humans have imagined Moon landings long before the science and technology existed to actually perform them.

Because of its extreme difficulty and otherworldly nature, a successful Moon landing is viewed as being among humanity's greatest achievements.[1] A Moon landing combines three essential elements: science, a description of "what" to do that conforms to the physical laws of the universe; technology, a means of "how" to do it using engineering and machines; and finally imagination, the human compulsion of "why" to do it.

Particularly in the United States, works of fiction helped to create the will to go the moon by creating a narrative that allowed people to feel good about themselves and their country in the face of the turbulent events of the 1950s and 1960s, when the Cold War was at its height.[2] There was Soviet interest in science fiction literature and cinema, too, during the first half of the 20th Century—but it tended to focus on Mars landings rather than Moon landings.[3] Key examples include the novel Red Star (1908) by Alexander Bogdanov and the film Aelita (1924) by Yakov Protazanov.

Well before the technology and knowledge of physical laws became sufficiently advanced to allow manned space-flight, going to the Moon was the dream of many people. With the passage of time, the idea of a Moon landing became a common trope in science fiction literature and cinema. Below is a partial list of notable "Moon landings" depicted in works of art.

Title Author Nationality Release date "Launch vehicle" Notes
True History Lucian Greece 79 AD Sailing ship lifted by waterspout The first science fiction novel, with humans observing a war between aliens on the Moon and on the Sun.
The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri Italy 1321 Beatrice, a ghostly guide Dante discovers that the Moon is the First Sphere of Heaven, inhabited by souls who abandoned their vows and so were deficient in the virtue of fortitude.
Somnium Johannes Kepler Holy Roman Empire 1634 Walking across "shadow bridge" Written by the astronomer who discovered that planets and moons travel in orbits, "The Dream" describes beings living on the Moon.
Histoire Comique de la Lune Cyrano de Bergerac France 1657 Multi-stage rocket After meeting biblical figures and giants, Cyrano goes on trial to prove mankind is intelligent in this satirical, humorous romp.
Baron Munchausen Rudolf Erich Raspe Germany 1785. The baron travels to the moon, where he meets the Moon king.
The Conquest of the Moon Washington Irving United States 1809 ? Beings from the Moon land on Earth and enslave Earthlings in a political satire about early treatment of Native Americans
"A Voyage to the Moon: With Some Account of the Manners and Customs, Science and Philosophy, of the People of Morosofia, and Other Lunarians" George Tucker, under the pseudonym Joseph Atterley United States 1827 Lunarium, a metal that repels from the Earth and is attracted to the Moon A satire about lunar societies meant to reflect human societies
"The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" Edgar Allan Poe United States 1835 Balloon Poe's contribution predated but was overshadowed by the "Great Moon Hoax" of 1835, when an American newspaper reported the supposed discovery of life on the Moon.
"The Galoshes of Fortune" Hans Christian Andersen Denmark 1838 Magic shoes A watchman unknowingly fits on a pair of magic galoshes that can grant people's wishes. As he wishes he could visit the moon the shoes send him flying there. There he meets several moon men who all wonder whether Earth is inhabited and decide this must be impossible. Back on Earth the lifeless body of the watchman is found and he is brought to a hospital, where they take his shoes off, breaking the spell again. He awakens and declares it to have been the most terrible night he had ever experienced.
From The Earth To The Moon Jules Verne France 1865 Cannon in Florida A gun club produces a manned cannon projectile, with many eerie similarities to the eventual NASA Apollo program. Made into a French opera in 1875 and a film version in 1958, in addition to the classic Méliès 1902 film version listed below. The fate of the astronauts is explored in the sequel Around The Moon (1870). A key inspiration to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Hermann Oberth.
"The Conquest Of The Moon: A Story of the Bayouda" Paschal Grousset under the pseudonym André Laurie France 1887 Electromagnets Enormous electromagnets forces the moon to land in the Sahara desert, which explorers then approach.
On The Moon Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Russia 1892 Rocket One of over 500 space-oriented works produced by Tsiolkovsky, here the Moon is seen as an African veldt with numerous types of roaming alien wildlife.
The First Men In The Moon H.G. Wells United Kingdom 1901 Antigravity paint Astronauts are captured by lunar inhabitants, with one left behind during an escape back to Earth. There was a 1919 film adaptation and a 1964 film adaptation, in addition to the classic Méliès 1902 version listed below. A key inspiration to Robert H. Goddard.
A Trip to the Moon Georges Méliès France 1902 Cannon projectile The first science fiction film ever made includes the now iconic image of a spaceship landing in the eye of the Man in the Moon.
"Drowsy" John Ames Mitchell as J.A. Mitchell United States 1917 Antigravity mechanism Cyrus Alton, a telepath called Drowsy, grows up to become a gifted scientist and invents a spaceship that takes him to the moon.
On The Silver Globe Jerzy Żuławski Poland 1903 Cannon projectile The first from The Lunar Trilogy in first-person narrative the odyssey and subsequent tribulations of a disastrously miscalculated expedition to the Moon with four men and one woman.
Woman In The Moon Fritz Lang Germany 1929 Rocketship "Friede" This movie by the director of the earlier science fiction classic Metropolis depicts two men and a woman going to the Moon to find gold. A key inspiration to then-17-year-old Wernher von Braun.
Weltraumschiff 1 startet ...
(i.e. Spaceship I takes off)
Anton Kutter Germany 1940 Spacecraft In this science fiction film commander Hardt (Carl Wery) and his crew travel to the moon with Spaceship I. This was reused as Polaris II in the American series The Space Explorers.
Münchhausen Josef von Báky Germany 1943 Fantastic hot air balloon In this fantasy film, the ageless Baron Munchausen travels to the moon with his servant, where the time is shown to run much quicker – so that the servant ages and dies.
De Avonturen van Pa Pinkelman Godfried Bomans The Netherlands 1945 A Dutch newspaper comic strip, written by famous author Godfried Bomans and illustrated by Carol Voges. The characters set foot on the moon, where they spent a long time and meet an entire society, even with its own national anthem.
Rocket Ship Galileo Robert Heinlein United States 1948 Atomic rocket In this classic young adult novel, teenagers make the first voyage to the Moon only to find defeated Nazis have already made the trip.
Haredevil Hare Michael Maltese United States 1948 Rocket Bugs Bunny becomes the first known rabbit on the moon and saves the Earth from Marvin the Martian.
Destination Moon George Pal United States 1950 Atomic rocket A movie adaptation of Rocket Ship Galileo featuring adults vs. nature instead of teens vs. Nazis.
Man Will Conquer Space Soon! Wernher von Braun, Chesley Bonestell United States 1952 Multistage rockets A famous series of articles printed in Collier's, a popular American news magazine.
Cat-Women of the Moon Roy Hamilton United States 1953 Rocket An infamous 3-D film
Explorers on the Moon Hergé Belgium 1954 Rocket Europe's beloved comic book hero Tintin reaches the Moon. The moon travel is depicted very realistically, based on all available scientific knowledge at the time. The only artistic license were the characters' helmets, which were made like a goldfish bowl rather than an actual space helmet so that readers could identify the individual characters.
Man and the Moon Wernher von Braun, Walt Disney United States 1955 Lunar Reconn Ship RM-1 Part of a famous Disney television docufiction series that included Man in Space and Mars and Beyond, now available on DVD.
Missile to the Moon H.E. Barrie and Vincent Fotre United States 1958 Rocket A partial remake of Cat-Women of the Moon.
The Outward Urge John Wyndham Great Britain 1959 Lunar Reconn Ship RM-1 Predicted simultaneous US and Soviet moon landings in the 2020s.
The Adventures of Nero: "De Daverende Pitteleer" Marc Sleen Belgium 1959 Rocket While travelling by rocket Nero and his friends accidentally land on the Moon. They meet a moon man there too, before continuing their flight to their original destination on Earth. The Moon is depicted just like Earth, with the characters walking around without having to use a space helmet or undergoing any effect of gravity loss.
12 to the Moon Fred Gebhardt and DeWitt Bodeen United States 1960 Rocket An international expedition lands on the moon
The Mouse on the Moon Leonard Wibberley UK 1962 Rockets A 1962 satiric novel filmed in 1963
Apollo at Go Jeff Sutton United States 1963 Saturn V Realistic fictional portrayal of the then-upcoming first Apollo Moon landing, ending with discovery of single-cell life on the Moon.
2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke United Kingdom 1968 Commercial Pan Am Space Clipper Epic science fiction film showing lengthy, detailed Moon landing scene with enormous impact among an audience anticipating actual Apollo landings in less than a year.
The Adventures of Nero: "De Paarse Futen". Marc Sleen Belgium 1968 Magic wand. While travelling at sea, Nero and his friends pick up a pair of American astronauts who crash landed in the ocean after their attempt to travel to the moon once again failed. Adhemar uses a magic wand to send them to the moon and even says: "This time the Americans beat the Russians." Near the end of the story a US military official arrives to congratulate Adhemar for what he has done and awards him a medal.
More Information Than You Require John Hodgman United States 2008 Modified Diving Bell Napoleon Bonaparte conquers the moon using an army of "400,000 lunar infantry and 30,000 cavalry," and creates moon-bases which are later sold in the Louisiana Purchase.