|Cover artist||Chris Moore|
|Publisher||Voyager Books (UK)|
|3 August 1998|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
Moonseed is a 1998 science fiction novel by British author Stephen Baxter, and the final book in the NASA Trilogy. The story envisions an alternate history in which the Canceled Apollo missions went ahead as planned.
Moonseed is an exploration of what could possibly happen when rock is returned from the Apollo 18 mission (which was actually cancelled in 1970). In the book, the rock contain a mysterious substance called "moonseed" (a form of grey goo, whether nanobots, an alien virus or something else) that starts to change all inorganic matter on Earth into more moonseed. It also gets transferred by a NASA probe to Venus, and the explosion of Venus is the first clue as to what has been happening.
Stephen Baxter combines a host of disciplines (space travel, geology and disaster theory) to tell a tale where the rocks are literally swept from under the feet of humanity. During the course of the novel, in which Edinburgh is the focus for much of the action, Venus is destroyed by an unknown cosmic event that showers the Earth with radiation that somehow stirs the moonseed on Earth. When Moon-dust containing the moonseed is dropped onto the streets of Edinburgh by a lab assistant of the main character, Earth's fate is sealed. The moonseed begins to disintegrate the planet from the inside-out as the core heats up exponentially, while on the surface, nuclear power stations catastrophically fail, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are abundant, and billions of people die as cities and continents vanish.
Over the course of the cataclysmic erosion of Earth, a collective of scientists and engineers in space agencies from around the world desperately try to terraform the Moon for colonisation, to provide a safe haven for some surviving humans before Earth eventually disintegrates into nothingness along with human civilisation.
This novel also presents numerous theories and ideas about the space-faring future of humanity, albeit in an alternate dimension where we are forced into space by an eroding Earth. It is also, in many stages, critical of NASA's performance over the last thirty years, as well as the United Kingdom's disaster programs.