“Over The Moon”

Regarding sidebars to space exploration, you may find a small, hard item detailing Mooncrete. It was an interesting construction material from decades ago. Mooncrete was not available in stores. You needed to know one man in particular to get it. He appeared on the doorsteps in Florida during the Apollo lunar missions of the late 60s and early 70s. How fortunate for the perspective buyer back then, that he had some Mooncrete hidden in his trunk but was willing to part with it. And who wouldn’t want a patio or front porch made from Mooncrete. It was the only concrete made with aggregate from our closest celestial neighbor, the Moon.

The man you needed to know to get Mooncrete was Reginald Steinmann, PhD. As a government materials scientist on loan to NASA, Dr. Steinmann was also able to use his contacts to create the remarkable material. Unlike the classic, socially awkward scientist, Steinmann had élan when describing the marvel of Mooncrete to those who lingered at their doors. He explained that although Mooncrete was government sanctioned, the enterprise was necessarily small and discreet. It was a way to make the Moon missions directly benefit US citizens. Steinmann guaranteed each bag had at least 24 percent lunar material. Even with all the effort needed to collect the lunar contributions, the price of Mooncrete was comparatively small. Each five pound sack was a mere $1,000, US. The number of sacks available was limited due to the small amount of lunar aggregate brought back with each mission. The exact amounts were a state secrets. So was his formula for Mooncrete. For security, each sack was camouflaged in the packaging of other well-known concrete brands. However, Steinmann assured people that by dealing with him personally, customers—or candidates as he called them—was proof that new patios or front steps were indeed made with elements from the Moon. However, Mooncrete production would soon end. In fact, the sack he had when he knocked on any door could be the very last sack ever made.

Steinman was always quick to impart the amazing properties of dusty creation. He warned buyers not to be surprised if slabs made with Mooncrete glowed. This was due to the lunar components absorbing intense, direct sunlight when on the Moon’s surface. Perhaps most exciting was that although no life had yet been found on the Moon, if you did find a small fossil in Mooncrete, keep it secret until Steinmann returned to check your status. Contacting him was not allowed by government order. Also, Mooncrete was lighter than other concrete due to the low gravity of the Moon. Thus, the material brought back from it would also be lighter. To quote the unfortunately late Douglas Adams, this is, of course, impossible. Five or fifty pounds of concrete would be easier to hoist on the moon because the moon is less massive than the Earth and thus its gravity is proportionally weaker. Nor were any Apollo crews kept awake by stowed rock samples acting as unexpected nightlights. Life most likely never existed on the Moon until humanity decided to pop over for a few and all too briefs series of visits. (There were staph bacteria cultured from the camera housing of Surveyor 3 after Apollo 12’s crew recollected parts from that lunar probe. However, the bacteria were only micro-hitchhikers from Earth. The need for digestive relief could have required the astronauts to leave behind greater amounts of terrestrial bacteria. Photos of the Apollo lunar missions do not show any sani-cans close to the landers because more discrete methods were used. This was fortunate for both the historic lunar photographic compositions, and the preservation of the pristine, if lifeless, lunar environment.)

What the alleged Dr. Steinmann didn’t understand about mass and gravity he unfortunately made up for in skill as a scam artist. “Footprint parties” were held to celebrate curing surfaces in Floridian yards. The proud owners believed their slabs were once part of the new frontier walked over by Astronauts. Steinmann himself enjoyed giant leaps in his wallet contents, even if his product was one small step from selling deeds to swampland. And Steinmann’s credentials were also, shockingly—actually not shockingly—worthless paper. It’s rumored that Steinmann’s arrest came after he attempted to push Mooncrete on one particular man at a Cocoa Beach restaurant. Unfortunately for Steinmann, his intended mark was a real scientist. One with a PhD in Geology, no less. More remarkable was that the man, Dr. Schmidt, was actually the next to the last human to walk on the Moon. If this encounter with Apollo 17’s own Harrison Schmidt did occur, it was as if some celestial justice had taken Steinmann out of orbit. And it was time for reentry. Steinmann was born Salvatore Coldsalt. His criminal record included many scams, but none as lofty as Mooncrete. After his trial, Coldsalt began wearing another form of one-piece suit. This one came without pressurization, or big white gloves and boots with a gold-tinted helmet visor. His prison jumper did occasionally come with the addition of chains and handcuffs.

The patios and steps laid with Mooncrete have probably been broken up like the last Saturn 5 rocket. However, no one wanted to display pieces of their expensive slabs. Coldsalt served his sentence and was released from prison. He led a relatively quiet life. Until the Space Shuttle entered service with NASA. Evidently, Coldsalt could not resist the idea of the Shuttles as “space taxis.” He was arrested again after selling fares for passage into Low Earth Orbit. In a way this idea did prefigure the Russian Space Agency’s program of selling passage onboard their rockets to the International Space Station. There is also the current corporate competition to build reliable space vehicles to take tourists into space. Thus, Mr. Coldsalt may yet get a legitimate job, that of space flight travel agent. However, be sure to verify fares and fees before approving any charges. This is also a good idea even if staying within the atmosphere, whether or not Mr. Coldsalt is involved. And, perhaps, when buying concrete.

BSL