The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth, and is in synchronous rotation with the planet, always showing the same face. It is the brightest object in Earth's sky after the Sun, although its surface is actually dark and only slightly reflective. The Moon is thought to have formed nearly 4.5 billion years ago, not long after the Earth. Its prominence in the sky and its regular cycle of phases have, since ancient times, made the Moon an important cultural influence on language, calendars, art and mythology, and the Moon's gravitational influence produces the ocean tides and the minute lengthening of the day.
Cold War era rivalry between the USA and the USSR spurred a 'Space Race' to be the first to achieve the major goals in space exploration, particularly during the period between 1959 (when the Soviet Union first landed an unmanned craft on the Lunar surface) and 1972 (when the United States made the last of its six manned landings). These hitherto inconceivable advances in human technology naturally coincided with a golden age of science fiction based around the theme of space travel. Among the many international writers to be inspired was French author Pierre Boulle, whose most successful sci-fi work was La Planète des Singes in 1963. With cinematic innovations, sci-fi film moved on from the primitive matinee serials of the 1930s and 1940s and the cheaply made 'B' movies of the 1950s to visually impressive big-budget motion pictures such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Soviet film Solaris and, in 1968 (just a year before man first set foot on the Moon), Planet of the Apes.
The plot of Planet of the Apes did not directly involve the Moon, but rather the journey of an American astronaut crew to an unidentified planet. In the course of trying to establish their location, however, the astronauts note that "there is no moon". At the climax of the film it is revealed that the planet is in fact a future Earth, leaving unexplained just why there was apparently no moon observed. The comment was designed by the screenwriters to throw the viewers from guessing the planet's identity too early; original writer Rod Serling, in an early 1965 draft script, had the central character make the bizarre observation "there's no moon, or really it looks like there are two or three moons". PotA fans have since speculated as to possible explanations, including suggestions that 2,000 years of history might have altered the visibility of the Moon, or that its obscuration and the strange lightning seen by the astronauts while wandering in the Forbidden Zone were all mind-altering illusions produced by the mutants later encountered in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, who proved themselves capable of such feats.
Planet of the Apes spin-off media has gone further by explaining the actual destruction of the Moon. In MR Comics' Revolution on the Planet of the Apes (2006), Caesar is haunted by visions of the future in which his grandchildren fight a global war with humans which destroys the Moon in "an orgy of violence and madness". BOOM! Studios' Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm (2012) depicted a missile station based on the Moon and threatening the United States during a conflict in near-contemporary history. A counter measure aimed at destroying the missile base was interrupted by a preemptive strike, but just eight years before Taylor's eventual arrival an extreme faction of the mutants, hoping to provoke the final destruction of the planet, repaired and launched the defence missile and shattered the Moon, causing devastating climatic changes during the last years of Earth.
- The Moon article at Wikipedia
- Where did the Moon Go in Planet of the Apes? - 'John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV'