"I believe the moon is rich in gold!" That’s how the great Fritz Lang’s script to his tension-packed 1929 silent film Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon). As is traditional when crackpot visionaries make bold pronouncements in science fiction movies, the philistines in the staid scientific community jeered, jeered, but Professor Manfeldt proved them wrong by constructing an atomic rocket ship and voyaging to the moon (with his chief engineer, a rugged German pilot, a cunning American financier, his daughter, and a young stowaway, neatly rounding out the standard spaceship travelling pack). Lang’s movie is surprisingly technically plausible for 1929 (including use of a recognizable countdown to liftoff), thanks to his technical consultant, rocket scientist Hermann Oberth. Oberth was, in fact, a crackpot visionary jeered at by philistines; his doctoral thesis had been rejected, the idea of rockets in space being too ludicrous to satisfy his committee. But Oberth’s young assistant, Werner von Braun (who would create both Hitler’s storied V-2 and NASA’s Saturn V booster rocket) would live to see the professor’s critics proved wrong when man landed on the moon. There was no breathable atmosphere, unlike Lang’s script, but there were no Selenites, either. The Selenites were the beings that lived on the moon in H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon (in which the moon is reached using the motive power of an anti-gravity sphere); the term is more generally applicable to any race of moondwellers, such as the terrifying Kalkars, the savage race of moon people warring with the civilized U-ga and promoting disquieting racial stereotypes in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Moon Maid; the earthlings in this one reached the moon via a rocket ship, the Barsoom, but the aliens all live in the moon’s interior. Cyrano de Bergerac travelled to the moon in a much more civilized fashion, using a sort of homemade glass balloon; Baron Munchausen‘s was simpler yet, involving simply being blown off course by a monstrous gale. Munchausen’s moon was a remarkable place, with fleas the size of sheep and deadly radishes. When the Eagle landed in the wonderfully named (thanks to selenographer Giovanni Battista Riccioli) Tranquility Base, fulfilling Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon before the decade was out and sparing Nixon the need to announce the astronomer’s deaths, they, of course, found no such thing. They found a lot of rocks and dust. Is it any wonder that conspiracy theorists, Hollywood screenwriters, and the Fox network are so eager to assert that the Apollo landings were faked? Unless Buzz Aldrin bounced around in a sound studio somewhere (a touchy subject for him at this point), Charles Fort was wrong, and astronaut’s footprints will be the only transitory lunar phenomenon and the only man in the moon is the one we tell ourselves we see.