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Moon: Rod's take

01/09/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Moon in the USA - or Buy Moon in the UK

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pub: Liberty Films/Sony Distribution. 93 minute film on general release. cast: Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey.

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As you would expect by the title 'Moon', this movie is set on our natural satellite. The science behind this story is quite realistic. Fusion nuclear power is the answer to all our energy problems. It's clean, doesn't use lots of resources, abundantly generous in energy output and doesn't cause any problems with greenhouse gases. Basically, it's the power of the sun contained.

Nonetheless, making a nuclear fusion reactor is not an easy task. The reactants have to be at an extremely high temperature and contained within a magnetic field. There are several types of reactions possible but one of the easiest, relatively speaking, is the fusion of isotope helium 3. This is basically helium minus a neutron. It is found in the atmosphere of some of the giant planets and also on the surface of the Moon. Solar wind, the gases coming out from the sun, stick to the dusty surface of the Moon and stay there. We only have to mine it.

Helium 3 is a little sparse and is scattered all over the Moon. Giant machines will be required to gather and process it. Even at today's prices it would be worth billions of dollars per ton and reactors do not need a lot of it. This is the answer to our energy requirements and this is the setting for the story to the movie.

It's only fitting it was directed by Duncan Jones, a son of David Bowie! It's an excellent movie, reminiscent of many things and yet unique in its own right.

The movie opens with mining engineer Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell, enduring a lonely life on the far side of the Moon. He has been in charge of the mining operation for almost 3 years with only a sophisticated robot called GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company. Unfortunately, communication with Earth has been lost because of a satellite malfunction but he receives regular one-way communications from his wife.

Sam's three-year stint is about to come to an end and he's looking forward to returning to Earth. Unfortunately, he begins to feel unwell and has hallucinations. Going outside to inspect one of the huge mining machines, he crashes and is left unconscious.

He then wakes up in the hospital unit being attended by GERTY. However, going about his life within the base he becomes suspicious about his circumstances. He isn't allowed to go outside and the mining company send a relief shuttle on its way but, using subterfuge, he escapes to find the crashed vehicle and someone like himself seriously injured.

To reveal any more would spoil the plot. Although there's basically only one man involved in the movie, it's a gripping tale which moves along and keeps you intrigued. GERTY is similar in many respects to the HAL 9000 from the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey' and the sombre loneliness of space is somewhat the same as that experienced on the Jupiter Mission. The arrival of the relief shuttle has ominous undertones reminiscent of 'Outland' starring Sean Connery. They are only similarities and 'Moon' has a definite identity of its own.

The scenes on the Moon and within the base are very realistic and life-like. Believe it or not, this is what it will be like in maybe 50 or 100 years time. The impetus to go back to the Moon will be economic rather than political. That's why countries like China and India are interested. They know the potential wealth that lies on the Moon's surface and with such a price tag on helium 3, it won't be long before rockets are blasting off in large numbers to get there. It will be a Klondike in space but with mainly automated machines, a few engineers and plenty of hardware. Will people on Earth be living in an energy paradise?

'Moon' captures all this but also imparts a human story. This movie is definitely worth watching!

Rod MacDonald

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