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On the Moon - Acct 3340

In: Business and Management

Submitted By josiechen
Words 1237
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"Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History" by Ben Mezrich tells the true story of a young man named Thad Roberts who masterminded the first crime ever to take place in NASA.
Thad Roberts, a fellow in a prestigious NASA program had an idea—a romantic, albeit crazy, idea. He wanted to give his girlfriend the moon. Literally

Thad convinced his girlfriend and another female accomplice, both NASA interns, to break into an impregnable laboratory at NASA's headquarters—past security checkpoints, an electronically-locked door with cipher security codes and camera-lined hallways—and help him steal the most precious objects in the world:the moon rocks.

Mezrich has pored over thousands of pages of court records, FBI transcripts, and NASA documents, and has interviewed most of the participants in the crime to reconstruct the madcap story of genius, love, and duplicity all centered around an Ocean’s Eleven style heist that reads like a Hollywood thrill-ride.

Mezrich uses his trademark narrative non-fiction style to tell the story, which basically means it reads like fiction. While his stories are extensively researched and are factual (though perhaps biased in some cases), the books are written in such a way that they are very engaging and easy to read. Sex on the Moon went by much more quickly than an average work of non-fiction; it was fascinating and the pages flew by.
Thad Roberts is portrayed as a lost and wandering soul who finally found a home at NASA. He became a leader among his peers and those around him really looked up to him. He made a name for himself with those he worked under and was respected for his work ethic and intelligence. So, then, why in the world would a man who had found a place for himself conspire against the organization that had taken him in and steal priceless objects from them? While the title of the book makes it sound like it was all for a woman, the truth is more complicated than that.
From the beginning, Thad is insecure. He wants people to like him. He wants to be respected. When he walks into a room, he wants people to stare, and then turn to those they’re sitting with and whisper, “Do you know who that is?!?” It’s this desperate need for attention and acclaim that leads Thad down his self-destructive path. I have a distinct feeling that readers were supposed to pity Thad (and maybe admire him just a little for his audacity), but I would be lying if I said I felt the same. While part of me did feel sorry for him, I mostly just wanted to see him behind bars, and was racing through the book to see if he eventually got his due.
I enjoyed Sex on the Moon, though I can’t say Thad Roberts really appealed to me. The story was solid, and the behind-the-scenes look at NASA was very interesting. Mezrich did an exceptional job fleshing out the personality of Thad Roberts, especially when it came to his flaws and insecurities, and it was interesting to ponder over him. If your book club reads non-fiction, this would be a great pick, as it reads quickly and there are a lot of moral ambiguities to discuss within its pages.

Roberts starts the book as a gifted, ambitious young man who decided he wanted to become an astronaut, then managed to get into NASA’s intern program. From there, he fell in love, both with a fellow co-op and with the idea of stealing moon rocks. Although the theft succeeded, his lazy attempt to sell the rocks led to his arrest.

They feel they’re smarter than everyone, and that the world doesn’t work the way it should. But where Zuckerberg created Facebook, which builds new kinds of social interactions while breaking down boundaries, Roberts’ criminality is a much less ambiguous legacy.
From the acknowledgments and the form of Sex On The Moon, it’s clear that Roberts was Mezrich’s primary source. He’s portrayed as building himself up to the heist, doing the wrong thing, then ruining his life, all as a sort of game. In that game, he isn’t the villain, he’s simply taking rocks that have been officially discarded. And that can’t be bad, right?
Sex On The Moon is written and structured like a novel, which gives it much of its narrative drive. The creative non-fiction style gives the book more eloquent prose and a direct view into the characters’ minds, but it can be slightly off-putting in a book nominally based on real, recent history. But the advantages far outweigh the quibbles—the access to Roberts and re-creation of his motivation and personality are Sex On The Moon’s best qualities.
The book’s main tension is derived from Roberts’ confused identity construction. Roberts opens the book by being kicked out of his fundamentalist Mormon community; he rebuilds his identity at the University Of Utah, then at NASA. There, he becomes the social dynamo of the student community, equal parts prankster, adventurer, and leader. But there’s always the caveat that “this isn’t him,” as though he has some core, internal personality that exists apart from his actions. This disconnect and sense of doing justice while breaking the law seemingly led Roberts down his criminal path. Sex On The Moon appears to have a very narrow focus, but its universality means it could easily be subtitled How Smart People Do Dumb Things.

A promising NASA recruit throws everything away for a girl, illustrating the fascinating consequences when science, ambition, and starry-eyed love collide. In bestselling author Mezrich's telling, Thad Roberts, while at the University of Utah, became determined to be an astronaut and threw himself into science courses. He left his wife behind when he was accepted to the elite Johnson Space Center Cooperative Program in Houston, the training ground for NASA scientists. Despite his lack of an engineering background, Roberts excelled in the life sciences department. While cataloguing samples, he noticed the moon rocks NASA categorized as "trash"—samples returned after experiments. Then Roberts met and fell in love with a new recruit, Rebecca, and planned to give her the moon, or at least its profits, by stealing the "used" moon rocks. Roberts devised the heist and arranged an online sale with a mineral collector in Belgium. The suspicious buyer alerted the FBI, which set up a sting, and Roberts was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Mezrich (The Accidental Billionaires, from which The Social Network was adapted) has perfected his intensely readable brand of nonfiction: talented, often unscrupulous, young people skyrocketing to the top only to tumble back to earth. (July)

Mr. Roberts aspired to a career with NASA and became an intern at the Johnson Space Center. In 2002 he stole a 661-pound safe that contained priceless Moon rock samples. He was caught by an F.B.I. sting as he tried to sell this loot to mineral collectors. He was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison.

Sex on the Moon is not about sex on the Moon, but it is about a bright but troubled NASA intern, named Thad Roberts, who decided to throw away a promising career for himself and three friends to steal a small amount of Apollo Moon rocks…...

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