The Book of the Moon
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Why I wrote The Book of the Moon
Moon in Smog I first became interested in the moon as a small boy growing up in the suburbs of South London. My brother and I converted our dad's small garden shed into a moon rocket. We nailed bits of wood to the walls - these were the levers with which we would control our flight.

Above the levers we chalked the instruments we would use to monitor every aspect of the rocket's performance and which would be vital to our survival in the event of an emergency. We made space helmets out of cardboard boxes and every weekend we climbed into the shed, sealed the airlock door, strapped ourselves into the pilot's seats and began the tense countdown procedure that precedes any moon mission.
As an adult I read Norman Mailer's epic account of Apollo 11 and the first moon landing, A Fire on the Moon. As he described the Eagle settling onto the Sea of Tranquillity I shook with excitement. When Armstrong took that small step for a man I was right there with him, venting the oxygen from my cardboard helmet. I recently returned to Mailer's book and got the same rush.

For much of my life I have been a film director and in that role the garden shed in West Norwood became a much bigger shed on the Isle of Man. In it we built Unity, a lunar orbital space station and spent six months filming the adventures of its crew for a Satellite TV series called 'Space Island One'.

Not all of my work has been in fiction. The rocket anorak in me was fed when I got the chance to research and make documentaries for British Industry. I tackled Fibre Optic Cable for the Ministry of Defence, Domestic Approach Radar for British Aerospace and perhaps best of all, a film on Sea Wolf Rocket Control Radar for Marconi Defence Systems. With Marconi I discovered a concept that still gives me a frisson of pleasure - Millimetric Radar.

I once even touched the moon. I worked with a film producer who had a necklace into which was set a tiny piece of moon rock, given to her when she worked on a film about NASA. Now I live on a boat and the very water I float on is subject to the massive gravitational influence of the moon.

The moon excites me and it was to capture that excitement that I set out to write The Book of the Moon. I want a volume packed with technical detail, lists, diagrams and drawings. A book full of the derring do of the astronauts as they juggle their rockets across the quarter of a million miles that separates us from our nearest extra-planetary neighbour. A book that I might have had as a manual as we waited for lift off in the shed.

But I also wanted a book for my other self. A book that tells me about the mysterious, strange side of the moon. The moon that hovers above my boat and whose power is so colossal and subtle and playful it makes the Thames disappear twice a day. A disappearance that has bred in me a strong affinity with our ancestors. I know what they must have felt like thirty thousand years ago as they huddled by the same disappearing river. I know that they must have stared at the vanishing water and thought 'Is that it? Where has it all gone? Is it ever coming back?', and then staring up at the same moon I stare at they must have wondered 'Who's in charge up there? Who do we have to placate to bring back the water?'

As I wrote I discovered that the moon does make us mad, though perhaps not in the way that we assume. It is difficult to prove that the full moon has any effect on us at all and the fact that the moon has power over the tides does not mean it has power over the water in our bodies. But mankind does extraordinary things to chart the moon's progress. Our ancestors spent millions of hours and thousands of years watching and recording what the moon does. They hauled thousands of tons of rock vast distances to construct megaliths that are in part lunar observatories. And we have done the same thing. There was no need to send a man to the moon but we just had to do it. Landing on the moon came to obsess the two most powerful nations on earth and we spent colossal fortunes and more millions of man hours getting there. And it was, undeniably, exciting.

Today the moon presents us with a moral challenge. We are planning to go there again. We want to use the moon as a stepping stone to the stars and this time we are going to exploit its mineral resources. Both these things will completely change what the moon is. In exploiting it we will trash its unique environment. The moon is the next rainforest. Are we gripped in a new madness that will leach colossal resources into thin air at a time when we cannot get clean water to every citizen of planet earth? This problem grew in importance for me as I wrote the book. But a bit of me still loves the excitement and the challenge of getting back on the moon. I share the madness.

So perhaps I really wrote The Book of the Moon for the nine year old me back there in the shed. The Command Module Pilot anxiously scanning the dials and issuing last minutes orders to his co-pilot as the final seconds of countdown tick away. Tensing for lift off he awaits the titanic forces that will hurl him through the suburban sky into the black depths of space and the beginning of his epic journey to that strange, frightening and exhilarating planet: the moon. I hope it will see him safe through.

Rick Stroud
HB Veronica
Review: Fly Me To The Moon

On Stage with Buzz Aldrin

Essay: Trashing the Moon

Why I wrote The Book of the Moon

Video: Man & the Moon

IQ2 Space Festival

Moon Magic - Great images of the Super Moon

Rifleman, A Front Line Life
Click below to order your copy of The Book of the Moon. The book was released on the 7th of May 2009 in the UK and on the 23rd of June in the US:
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