When I was about twelve years old I read a science fiction novella by Robert Heinlein called The Man Who Sold the Moon. It was published in 1950. The plot involves a wealthy industrialist — the richest person on earth — who is seized with the goal of becoming the first person to reach, and thereby control, Earth’s moon.
Despite his great wealth, Delos Harriman, known as the “last Robber Baron,” must find additional investors, or at least more money to sink into the venture. He also has to find a way to keep governments around the world from laying claim to the moon.
Harriman’s lawyers come up with a scheme. Under international law, property rights include the airspace above any given piece of real estate. Airspace, of course, is limitless, reaching to the infinite. The moon’s orbit takes it over the Earth’s equator, drifting slightly north and south in a narrow band. So the countries near the equator can all claim some partial ownership of the moon. Continue reading “The man who sold the moon”