When production on Destination Moon began in 1949, everything about the project was state of the art. The great science fiction author Robert Heinlein cowrote the script (based on his novel Rocketship Galileo) and served as technical advisor. The film's astronomical visions were realized by Chesley Bonestell, whose artwork virtually defined the look of space travel at the dawn of the rocket era. Destination Moon is even noted in NASA's official timeline of space-travel history, and almost inevitably won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects. It remains a milestone film, not so much as classic science fiction but--like 2001: A Space Odyssey 18 years later--as an attempt to visualize the reality of space exploration. (To educate the audience on this topic, Woody Woodpecker makes an animated guest appearance, hosting an instructional film on the basics of rocketeering.) The movie now seems quaintly nostalgic, and its depiction of man's first lunar landing is inaccurate on several details. Taken in context, however, it remains impressively authentic, and conveys the same charm and wonder of the later classic Forbidden Planet. The motivation for the lunar conquest remains military: the country that controls the moon will control the Earth, and cold war paranoia fuels the mission of the rocket ship Luna, which blasts off from the Mojave desert carrying four daring astronauts. The stalwart crew consists of noted scientists and engineers, but Everyman Joe Sweeney (Dick Wesson) is aboard for broad audience appeal; he's the kind of Bronx-born guy who pronounces "Earth" as "oith" and complains that the moon has "no beer, no babes, no baseball." But when a payload crisis threatens the crew's safe return to Earth, Joe rises to the occasion. It's all a bit goofy now, but Destination Moon is still a wonderful movie, bursting with the awe and enthusiasm that would eventually lead to "one giant leap for mankind." --Jeff Shannon
Now listen, fella, I've known you from way back. Two-engine planes weren't fast enough: you had to go in for four. Then props weren't fast enough: you had to go in for jets. Now you've got a hold of something else, something that'll go higher and faster than anything that ever existed before. You can't swing it alone, so you're trying to rope us in on it. Well, before we go along with you, you'll have to tell us: what's the payoff?
Dollars and cents? I don't know. I want to do this job because it's never been done. Because I don't know. It's research, it's pioneering. What's the Moon? Another North Pole -- another South Pole -- our only satellite, our nearest neighbor in the sky.
But why go there, Jim?
We'll know when we get there; we'll tell you when we get back. It's a venture that I don't want to be left out of.
Here's the reason. The vast amount of brains, talents, special skills, and research facilities necessary for this project are not in the government, nor can they be mobilized by the government in peacetime without fatal delay. Only American industry can do this job. And American industry must get to work, now, just as we did in the last war!
Yes, but the government footed the bill!
And they'll foot this bill, too, if we're successful; you know that. If we fail, we'll take a colossal beating. So we can't fail! Not only is this the greatest adventure awaiting mankind, but it's the greatest challenge ever hurled at American industry. And General Thayer is going to tell you why.
The reason is quite simple. We are not the only ones who know that 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 important military fact of this century.