Space Inspiration

Woman in the Moon: re-exploring a presciently modern masterpiece 05-31-2021 |  3 minutes


In 2024, the Artemis mission and its Orion module will launch the first woman to the Moon. An event which has already taken place in our imagination …

The rocket in its assembly building – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929


As part of this month celebrating the Moon, come with us on a journey in time. Frau Im Mond, in which renowned director Fritz Lang portrays an imaginary lunar expedition was produced in 1929. Hard to believe when you watch it! 


It is not a question of its cinematographic technique, or the fact that the black and white silent movie, set to a sinister piano musical background, has deteriorated over time, but rather its incredibly prescient vision of the space industry and of what a lunar mission might be like.

The module buried in lunar regolith – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929


For the technical details about rocketry, Lang consulted German physicist and engineer Hermann Oberth, who, along with Wernher von Braun, was one of the founders of long-range rockets and a pioneer of modern astronautics.

Sketches of the rocket – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929

The film was shown during the exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris La Lune, Du voyage réel aux voyages imaginaires, for which ArianeGroup was a partner, and what is particularly striking is the number of similarities with modern-day space activities: multistage launch vehicles, upper-stage pressurization spheres, external lateral boosters, a final assembly building that closely resembles the one for Ariane 6, the countdown to blastoff (a historic first), etc.

Those familiar lateral boosters – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929


Although the plot is straightforward, Lang nevertheless strived for a painstakingly realistic approach. In the scenario, Professor Manfeldt, ridiculed by his peers for believing in the presence of gold on the Moon, is contacted 30 years later by Wolf Helius who wants him to build a rocket for a lunar expedition.

Gravitational fields of the Moon and the Earth – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929


The search for resources is often the reason for planning and launching space missions. But for those of you who may be drawn by the prospect of gold, don’t get your hopes up! The Moon most likely contains far less amounts of booty than the treasure-seeking director imagined. Nowadays, however, the hope of obtaining Helium-3 – extremely rare on Earth, but supposedly abundant on the Moon – is just as enticing.

Leading actress Gerda Maurus as Friede – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929


In Lang’s film, scientifically accurate elements abound: take-off near the Equator, the G-force felt by the astronauts (“there are eight critical minutes during which we’ll feel an immense pressure”) and microgravity (Fritz even thought of foot straps that the characters could use to move about, just like on the ISS today!).

The lunar movie set – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929


Once the protagonists reach the Moon, however, the film does depart from reality: Lang opted to portray a breathable atmosphere, balmy temperatures and liquid water. On the whole, however, the fantastical elements do not hinder our enjoyment of a story reminiscent of Jules Verne’s universe. 

The trajectory – Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang, 1929


Finally, it is interesting to note the socially progressive aspect of Lang’s film. Inspired by a novel by Thea von Harbou, it features an intrepid heroine, Friede, for whom the rocket in the film is named. She would give today’s astronauts a run for their moneyand symbolizes an early-day advocacy for gender equality in STEM fields. After all, she is the woman who would not stay behind, and the reason for the movie’s title.


Decades after its initial release, the movie continues to inspire artists, such as Tintin cartoonist Hergé, or more recently electro musician Jeff Mills with his “Woman in the Moon” album in 2015. 


Not put off by the prospect of a three-hour-long black and white silent movie? In that case, we strongly recommend that you settle down and watch this major cultural jewel. Inspiration guaranteed.