Thad Roberts was a co-op working for NASA at Johnson Space Center, and in his brief time there he experienced some rather amazing aspects of the study of space, including what astronauts experience in training, and what they bring back from voyages to space. One day Thad was shown a safe of moon rocks which were considered "garbage" by NASA because they had been removed from a controlled storage and preservation environment so they could be used in scientific research. One thing lead to another, and eventually Thad decided to try taking NASA's trash and turn it into his treasure by selling it to a mineral collector he located online. Yada yada yada, he got busted. Sent to jail for 8 years. Scorned by NASA, scientists, and geologists worldwide. A pock upon the American culture for attempting to profit from the sale of a national treasure.
This is Thad's story as told by Mezrich, and it is note-worthy to point out that as such, this is the story from Thad's point of view. Controversy has already surrounded this book because people criticize the imbalance and the fantasy communicated through Thad's delusions. (That it was ok to steal lunar samples, that he was helping science by making them more valuable, that this girl he met and fell in love with while still married was his catalyst and inspiration for an adventure. Sounds like hooey to me.)
Having said that, Thad's story is an incredible one. Though I fall very short of having ample knowledge on the topic, I've long been a NASA junkie. When I saw the description of this book in an email from Amazon regarding summer releases, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. (Side note: this was my first experience pre-ordering a Kindle book, and I so loved how it was magically delivered to my device at midnight on release date. Very cool!) This book is one of the best nonfiction pieces I have read in a very, very long time. I loved Mezrich's style so much that I automatically began to search out other books he has penned. I love the mystery and mystique of NASA, and this book captures the awe so many of us have for the organization and its missions.
The timing of the book's release is interesting to me. The last shuttle mission was July 14, 2011. This mission signifies the end of our nation's pride in and fascination with the moon missions and the beginning of our single minded focus on the journey to Mars. The book's release date was July 12, 2011. In it Thad Roberts's thoughts and fascinations regarding his dream of becoming the first man to walk on Mars is described numerous times and in great detail. Could it be that Thad Roberts, in an attempt to make up for his great offense to NASA and science itself, used his book to help convert some of the widespread criticism about the end of the shuttle program to some excitement about the Mars discovery and exploration program? Talk about turning his trash into NASA's treasure! Hmmm...
As terrific as this tale is, there are a few things that irk me a bit. For starters, I believe that the blurbs posted for marketing purposes are drastically misleading. First of all, the book does not at any point state that Thad's reason for wanting to steal the moon rocks was because "he wanted to give his girlfriend the moon." I'm fairly certain I didn't skip a chapter, and by no means did the book ever state that the reason Thad robbed NASA was to give his girl the moon. There may have been a brief mention when the deed was nearly complete that it would be pretty exciting to give her a piece of the moon, but this was about Thad and Thad alone. Additionally, some reviews also state that he "convinced" his accomplices to assist him in the crime; on the contrary, the picture Mezrich paints is one of the accomplices offering themselves up willingly. I mean, it sounds like these reviewers didn't read the galleys at all. Or maybe they did, and it was merely a continued effort to market this book specifically to men.
And make no mistake, Sex on the Moon is heavily marketed to the man crowd. The title itself isn't one that is going to pique the interest of many ladies. The heavy use of adjectives like "daring" and "audacious" are commonly used in marketing strategies for guys. There are a few scenes in the book describing Thad's lust after and physical encounters both with his wife and with his girlfriend (while still married-the jerk) that aren't necessarily graphic but definitely explicit in detail. Unnecessarily so. I mean, you're chugging along and here's this intimate scene and you think "Hey, I thought this was a book about NASA and moon rocks."
As for Thad Roberts, I don't know where he is or what he is up to these days, but one thing I know for certain is that the guy is quite the brain. Despite going to federal prison for a sentence of 100 months and hacking off the greatest scientists in the world, his book is absolutely fantastic.
He just may make his millions on those moon rocks after all...