Moonstruck: How Realistic is the Moon Depicted in Classic Science Fiction Films?

  • Dona A. Jalufka
  • Christian Koeberl
Conference paper


Classical science fiction films have been depicting space voyages, aliens, trips to the moon, the sun, Mars, and other planets, known and unknown. While it is difficult to critique the depiction of fantastic places, or planets about which little was known at the time, the situation is different for the moon, about which a lot of facts were known from astronomical observations even at the turn of the century. Here we discuss the grade of realism with which the lunar surface has been depicted in a number of movies, beginning with George Méliès’ 1902 classic Le Voyage dans la lune and ending, just before the first manned landing on the moon, with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Many of the movies present thoughtful details regarding the actual space travel (rockets), but none of the movies discussed here is entirely realistic in its portrayal of the lunar surface. The blunders range from obvious mistakes, such as the presence of a breathable atmosphere, or spiders and other lunar creatures, to the persistent vertical exaggeration of the height and roughness of lunar mountains. This is surprising, as the lunar topography was already well understood even early in the 20th century.


Lunar Surface Science Fiction Meteor Shower Lunar Landing Rocket Flight 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dona A. Jalufka
    • 1
  • Christian Koeberl
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of GeochemistryUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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