Why "Moonraker"?

March 2014

You know, I think I've told this story in person, but never the whole thing...including nose art that I didn't use... online, anywhere. About time, I think.

So...how DID I end up naming my Fly Baby, "Moonraker"?

It was a wandering path. As most of you know, I have a keen interest in naval history in the Napoleonic era. Our home is decorated with prints of sailing ships and battles, and, of course, I've written and had published novels set in the US Navy in the War of 1812.

(I could say that Drew and my ancestors were firing cannons at each other back then, but none of my ancestors had emigrated to the Americas, yet. Though some were Irish, so shooting at Drew's relatives wasn't entirely out of the question...)

Anyway, I wanted a name that evoked that era. Best bet would be the nickname given to the sails that were highest above the deck...so high, that they raked the stars and the Moon.

So I was going to name my airplane "Star-raker."

"STAR-raker"??? What the heck???

There was a reason for that. I am a voracious reader...always had been. My mom had boxes of old book-club books; I read most of them. She subscribed to Reader's Digest Condensed books; every month she'd get a fat volume that had abridged versions of five (count 'em!) books on varying topics.

And joy of joy, some of them were about airplanes or were by airplane writers. I remember reading "Stranger to the Ground," by Richard Bach. "Of Good and Evil," a non-flying book by Earnest Gann.

And... "Star-Raker," by Donald Gordon. It was a British book, a technical-detective novel about a group trying to develop an SST where the flight crews were developing cancer at an accelerated rate.

So, "Star-Raker" is was going to be.

Except...well, except for that damn hyphen. It makes the word look awkward. Just deleting it would mean people would pronounce the term as separate words... "Star Raker", which is a big awkward. Running the two terms together would probably mean "Starraker" would get pronounced as "Star Racker". Ugh.

So, "Moonraker" it had to be. I wasn't too fond of the idea, since folks would just assume I named the plane after the James Bond movie. Why not just name it "Millennium Falcon" and be done with it?

But then, I realized the "Moonraker" was a pretty good pick. In the movie, "Moonraker" was the name of a space shuttle...and when I thought about it, it was a good tie-in to my then 20-year career in space operations and space mission design.

Another axis kicked in. In my 20-year career at that point, ~15 had been spent in windowless buildings that I can't talk about. A spy movie wasn't a bad in-joke to refer to that aspect of my life. (the first building had doors like "Get Smart"...seriously!)

The final axis tipped the scale. Space Shuttles had notoriously poor glide angles, but I figured the Fly Baby probably matched them. So "Moonraker" was a pretty good pick, after all.

When I do the artwork for my nautical novels, I do the titles in a special font called "Black Chance"... a very nautical, piraty look to it. So, naturally, I used that font to do the name.

I felt I needed a bit of artwork to go with it, to give a better clue of what the name came from. So I drew up am image of a tall ship sail against the night sky, with the moon and the stars.

Two things wrong with that idea. First, I already *had* nose-art on the airplane, and didn't want to have two images. I was kind of fond of the Far Side "Lets Get This Baby Off the Ground!" cartoon, and wanted to keep it.

Second...I'm a lousy artist. I can do technical drawings with the best of them, but I've got no artistic talent in the sense of making a pretty picture. I did a drawing, but just decided it wasn't good enough to put on the airplane.

So, since then, it's been "Moonraker" in Black Chance, and a modified version of the Gary Larson cartoon.

Eighteen years later, I'm not *quite* so embarrassed about the artwork. So for the first time, here it is....



Ron Wanttaja

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