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Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History

Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History

3.6 55
by Ben Mezrich

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From the bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House, this is the incredible true story of how a college student and two female accomplices stole some of the rarest objects on the planet—moon rocks—from an "impregnable" high-tech vault. 

But breaking into a highly


From the bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House, this is the incredible true story of how a college student and two female accomplices stole some of the rarest objects on the planet—moon rocks—from an "impregnable" high-tech vault. 

But breaking into a highly secure laboratory wasn't easy. Thad Roberts, an intern in a prestigious NASA training program, would have to concoct a meticulous plan to get past security checkpoints, an electronically locked door with cipher security codes, and camera-lined hallways even before he could get his hands on the 600-pound safe. And then how was he supposed to get it out? And what does one do with an item so valuable that it's illegal even to own? With his signature high-velocity style, Mezrich reconstructs the outlandish heist and tells a story of genius, love, and duplicity that reads like a Hollywood thrill ride.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
From the Publisher

“An out-of-this-world heist.”
USA Today 
“Mezrich has uncovered another high-stakes, fascinating true story. . . . Part love story, part madcap caper, part astro-geekery, the book is one of the summer’s most fun reads.”
“Movie-worthy treatment to the guy who stole moon rocks from NASA.”
The New York Daily News
“Mezrich is a genius at using characters and dialogue. . . to turn nonfiction into something as compelling as any thriller.”
The Chronicle Herald 

“[An] in-depth look at Thad Roberts, who along with three other NASA interns, stole pieces of lunar rock to impress his girlfriend. Mezrich has done extensive research to recreate the story of how an aspiring astronaut ended up getting caught for stealing over 100 pieces of the moon.”
The Atlantic Monthly

“A fast and furious read, powered along by Mezrich’s desire never to take his eyes off the story.”
Chicago Post-Tribune

“Ben Mezrich’s latest straight-to-the-big-screen book. . . . a rollicking summertime page-turner crackling with sex, astronauts, stolen dinosaur bones and international cyber-intrigue.”
The Miami Herald

“A breathless, credulous style. . . . memorable supporting characters. . . . adventure, sex, romance, a hero who is equal parts Clifford Irving from The Hoax, Frank Abagnale from Catch Me If You Can, and George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The Boston Globe

“[A] thrilling account of space rock heist. . . fun, breezy action.”
Tampa Tribune

Eloquent prose and a direct view into the characters’ mind. . . the access to Roberts and re-creation of his motivation and personality are Sex On The Moon’s best qualities.”
The Onion

“[A] fascinating story. . . . has the readability of popular fiction, a ripping story, and great characters. . . . Another winner from an extremely talented writer.”
Booklist, starred review

“Out of this world heist. . . . one of the summer’s most buzzed-about books.”

“Page-turner. . . . engaging read.”
San Antonio Express-News

“Ben Mezrich, the gonzo-inspired biographer of Ivy League geeks. . . . [brings us a] stranger-than-fiction, true-life thriller of a man who went where no man has gone before. . . . [the] story ticked all the boxes: a charismatic dreamer with a troubled past, a Romeo-and-Juliet love story, a geek-alicious high-tech setting, an ingenious Oceans 11-style heist—and perhaps the most boneheaded mistake any man ever made to impress a girl. Even better, it was a journalist’s Holy Grail: a truly uncovered story.”

“Deliciously readable.”
Baltimore Jewish Times

“Ben Mezrich goes to incredible lengths to bring readers a story that is both accurate and spellbinding, honest and riveting.”
Portsmouth Wire

“A pulse-pounding tale.”
Patriot Ledger

“This is the incredible story of a crime truly out of this world, told with verve by Mezrich.”
News of the World

Atlanta Jewish Times

“Enthusiastically re-creates this oddball 2002 moon-rock heist.”
Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
A fellow Thad Roberts wanted to charm his girlfriend, so he convinced her and another friend, both NASA interns, to help him get past all those security checkpoints and steal some moon rocks. Considering how wacky this sounds and that best-selling author Mezrich wrote both The Accidental Billionaires (the basis for the film The Social Network) and Bringing Down the House (the basis for the film 21), this would seem to be a winner.
Kirkus Reviews

Glammed-up new-journalistic reconstruction of three young interns' naïve plot to steal NASA's treasured moon rocks.

Mezrich (The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, 2009, etc.) enthusiastically re-creates this oddball 2002 moon-rock heist, led by ambitious lunar-obsessed Mormon Thad Roberts and two female accomplices, all of whom were part of a select group of NASA interns and soon-to-be astronauts-in-training. Raised in an incredibly strict Mormon family in Utah, Roberts decided that the best route of escape was to pursue his love of outer space—to the detriment of his premature marriage, he re-directed his entire life and education toward becoming an astronaut. This run-up to the central lunar-themed criminal activity is the most captivating section of the book. Roberts' family members are terrifying in their religious-zealot freakishness, and in the character of Roberts himself, Mezrich constructs a portrait of a quintessential American individualist in control of his own destiny—a control that soon evaporated after his exposure to the lunar rocks that NASA had stored away for decades.Unfortunately, the author seems to distrust the subject matter's potential to generate its own drama. The prose quickly becomes overheated, and his ham-fisted Norman Mailer–esque stylistic moves rarely connect with adequate force. Mezrich does his best to legitimize Roberts' ill-conceived plot to give his new lover "the moon." But once the young astronaut wannabe crossed this line from grandiose ambition to small-time crook, the author pushes hard to frame these deeds as heroic. Yet Roberts and his co-ed co-conspirators come off as delusional kids who can no longer discern sci-fi fantasies from real life.

Even a seasoned pro like Mezrich can't move this ridiculous caper beyond glorified fraternity-prank status.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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2 MB

Read an Excerpt

It had to be the strangest getaway in history.
            Thad Roberts tried to control his nerves as he stared up through the windshield of the idling four-wheel-drive Jeep. The rain was coming down in violent gray sheets, so fierce and thick he could barely make out the bright red traffic light hanging just a few feet in front of him. He had been sitting there for what seemed like forever; a long stretch of pavement serpentined into the gray mist behind him, winding back past a half-dozen other traffic lights—all of which he’d had to wait through, in exactly the same fashion. Even worse, between the lights he’d had to keep the Jeep at an agonizing five miles per hour—a veritable crawl along the desolate, rain-swept streets of the tightly controlled compound. It was unbelievably hard to drive at five miles per hour, especially when your neurons were going off like fireworks and your heart felt like it was going to blow right through your rib cage. But five miles per hour was the mandatory speed limit of the compound—posted every few yards on signs by the road—and at five miles per hour, once you hit one red light, you were going to hit them all.
            Thad’s fingers whitened against the Jeep’s steering wheel as he watched the red glow, willing it to change to green. He wanted nothing more than to gun the engine, put his foot right through the floor, break the speed limit, and get the hell out of there. But he knew that there were cameras everywhere—that the entire getaway was being filmed and broadcast on more than a dozen security consoles. For this to work, he had to stay calm, obey the rules. He had to appear as if he belonged.
            He took a deep breath, let the red glow from the traffic light splash across his cheeks. Only a few more seconds. He used the opportunity to toss a quick glance toward the passenger seat—which didn’t help at all. Sandra looked even more terrified than he felt. Her face was ivory white, her eyes like saucers. He wanted to say something to calm her down, but he couldn’t think of the words. She was pretty, with blondish-brown hair; even younger than Thad, barely nineteen years old. Maybe not the ideal accomplice for something like this—but she was an electronics specialist, and she had practically begged to be a part of the scheme.
            Thad shifted his eyes toward the center “seat” between them, and almost smiled at the sight of his girlfriend crouched down beneath the dashboard, her lithe body curled up into a tight little ball. Rebecca had jet-black hair, cut short against her alabaster skin, and she was even prettier than Sandra. She had just turned twenty. But as young as she was, she was the only one of the three of them who didn’t look scared. Her blue eyes were positively glowing with excitement. To her, this was beyond thrilling—really, James Bond kind of shit. Looking at her, Thad was infused with adrenalin. They were so damn close.
            And suddenly he was bathed in green as the light finally changed. Thad touched the gas pedal, and the Jeep jerked forward—then he quickly lifted his foot—making sure the speedometer read exactly 5 mph. The slow-motion getaway continued, the only sounds the rumble of the Jeep’s engines and the crackle of the rain against the windshield.
            A bare few minutes later, they came to the last traffic light—and again, of course, it was red. Even worse, Thad quickly made out the security kiosk just a few yards to the left of the light. He could see at least two uniformed guards inside. Thad held his breath as he slowed the Jeep to a stop at the light; he kept his head facing forward, willing Sandra to do the same. He didn’t want to have to explain why he was at the compound, past midnight on a Saturday. Thad was counting on the fact that neither of the guards would be eager to step out into the rain to interrogate him. Even so, if one of the guards had looked carefully, he might have noticed that the Jeep was sagging in the back. In fact, the vehicle’s rear axle was bent so low that the chassis almost scraped the ground as they idled at the traffic stop.
            The sag of the Jeep was one of the few things that Thad and his two accomplices hadn’t planned. A miscalculation, actually—the safe that Thad and the two girls had hoisted into the back of the Jeep—less than ten minutes ago—weighed much more than Thad had expected—probably close to six hundred pounds. It had taken all three of them and a levered dolly to perform the feat, and even so Thad had strained every muscle in his back and legs getting the damn thing situated properly. Thad was just thankful that the Jeep’s axle hadn’t collapsed under the weight. As it was, he was pretty sure that even a cursory inspection of the vehicle would be enough to blow the whole operation.
            Thankfully, neither of the guards made any move to step out of the kiosk. When the light shifted to green, Thad had to use all of his self-control to barely touch the gas—piloting them forward at the prescribed 5 mph. Almost instantly, the exit gate came into view. They approached, inch by inch—and at the last minute, the gate swung upward, out of the way. And then they were through. Thad slowly accelerated. Ten mph.
            Twenty mph.
            Thirty mph.
            He glanced in the rearview mirror. The compound had receded into the rain.
            He looked at Sandra—and she stared back at him. Rebecca uncurled herself and sat up in the middle of the Jeep, throwing an arm over his shoulder. Then they were all screaming in joy. They had done it. My God, they had truly pulled it off.
            When the celebration had died down, Thad glanced into the rearview mirror again—but this time, he wasn’t looking at the road behind them. He could see the dark bulk of the safe, covered in a plastic tarp they had bought in a hardware store just twenty-four hours ago. The sight of the thing caused his chest to tighten—a mix of anticipation and what could only be described as pure awe.
            In that safe was the most precious substance on earth. A national treasure—of unimaginable value, something that had never been stolen before—something that could never, in fact, be replaced. Thad wasn’t sure what the contents of the safe were worth—but he did know that if he’d wanted to, he could have just as easily walked off with enough of the stuff to make him the richest man in the world. As it was, he and his accomplices had pulled off one of the biggest heists in U.S. history.
            But to Thad, it hadn’t really been about the monetary value of the contents of the safe. All he’d really wanted to do was keep a promise to the girl sitting next to him, her arm over his shoulder. A simple promise that a million other men had made to millions of women over the years.
            He had promised to give her the moon.
            The difference was, Thad Roberts was the first man who was actually going to keep that promise.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Ben Mezrich is the New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental BillionairesBringing Down the House, and Sex on the Moon in addition to thirteen other books. The film 21, starring Kevin Spacey, was based on Bringing Down the HouseThe Social Network, which won an Oscar for best adaptation, was based on The Accidental Billionaires

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Sex on the Moon 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
nacbookworm More than 1 year ago
Strongest narrative. Coolest story. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Non-fiction, True Crime, or have an interest in NASA (they delve in deep!). And to anyone who doesn't like Mezrich's "recreating dialogue" style- let me tell you that this will be his least-challenged book by far as Mezrich had complete cooperation from the main subjects of the book. (It also helps that NASA and the FBI made the details of the heist public) Great book, people! Give it a shot!
MarkL74 More than 1 year ago
Mezrich does a great job telling this story. Quick, enjoyable read and highly recommended. I'm a little perplexed why he changed the names of Roberts' accomplices when they were all disclosed in public records.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
This is a true story compiled from several interviews, documents, court records and other sources. Some names have been changed for confidentially reasons. Thad Roberts is so intelligent and smart. He has been kicked out of the Mormon Mission Training Program for being honest about a premarital relationship and is then shunned by his parents. As he contemplates his future he decides he wants to be an astronaut and takes on 3 different majors in science at college and starts applying to the NASA co-op program. He is thrilled when he is accepted. On his second tour in the co-op program Thad decides that he wants to give his girlfriend the moon. literally. He has learned all the ins and outs of the different labs and offices on the base and decides that he can pull off the "most audacious heist in history". He is going to steal actual moon rocks from NASA. My Thoughts Reading this book I thought this can't actually be true. How could a man so intelligent actually think he could pull this off? The story is very compelling and there is no way to avoid a spoiler here because he does really try to pull this off. You have to read this story to actually believe what he goes though and see his thought processes. The way this man believes he is doing no more than a college prank is amazing and it kept me turning the pages. I also couldn't believe that he tried to sell them over the internet and for a very small price considering what they were and their true value. Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History includes actual letters written by Thad Roberts throughout the book. This is a story of his journey kept as true as possible with a few things changed by the author for security reasons. It is a very interesting read. It is not a thriller by any means but a story about the way love and greed can even make a genius do really stupid things. If you are a history buff or interested in NASA at all this is a must read. Mystery fans will like it just from the pure plot standpoint as Roberts pulls his plan together. The title to me though is completely wrong, it may be a trick by the author or publisher to get the book off the shelves into readers hands. There is the moon in this story but very little sex. The Moon Rock Heist would be a much better title. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Doubleday. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
RichSiegel More than 1 year ago
If you are into NASA or science in general, you much read this book. Mezrich does a phenomenal job in telling this story. I found it to be an extremely quick read as I couldn't put my Nook down when I was reading it! I highly recommend this book to anyone who is into science, NASA, mystery, or anything. A great story that anyone can get into.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does Ben Mezrich really believe the self-serving version of Thad Roberts that he portrays in this book or does he think that he and Roberts will make more money from the movie with it written in such a romantic way? This book was obviously written to be turned into a movie in which a thief is a hero. When this sort of movie is fiction it can be fun. This story is not fun since it is based on a real person who is nothing more than a lying thief. Roberts stole irreplaceable scientic journals that have never been recovered and moonrocks that have been tainted and can no longer been used for research. He tries to pretend that is wasn't for money but for love. If this is the case why had he stolen rocks and fossils from his college before landing the internship at NASA and why did he try to sell the rocks? It is a shame that when this waste of paper is turned into a movie this loser will be made into a folk hero. Skip the book; skip the movie. Don't risk Roberts making money off his despicable behavior. A previous reviewer said this was Mezrich's best book yet. I shudder to think how poorly written his other books are. He should stick to screenwriting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dvorders More than 1 year ago
While it begins a little slowly, the book becomes a quick read after the first 100 pages.  The story is captivating and the writing style allows the reader to quickly comprehend the facts and enjoy the story.  The story itself is absolutely captivating and one-of-a-kind, so be ready for an enjoyable read that won't take more than a few days on the couch or your favorite chair to complete.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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kcrvhs More than 1 year ago
Thad’s Attempt at Stealing the Moon Mezrich does a great job with this book. He really gives you an in depth and intense feel to the book. The book, 'Sex on the Moon' is about the main character Thad who meets a girl named Rebecca while working at his internship with NASA. While here they begin to talk and Thad finds out that there is 21 million dollars worth of moon rocks in the safe. He tell Rebecca his plan to steal the rocks and she is all for it. So on a rainy weekend they begin their plot, they drove into the NASA facility and basically put the safe in the back of his jeep and just drove off with it. As with every crime story there is a down fall. Thad tries to sell the rocks on the black market but the feds soon caught up with him and tricked him to falling right into their trap causing him his girlfriend Rebecca and two other accomplices to be promptly arrested. There were plenty of things that I enjoyed about this book. I absolutely loved the amount of description he added into the book but after awhile the amount of extra writing he used in descriptions did get very old. But other than that it was a great book. I enjoyed the idea of stealing a 21 million dollar rock with such ease and nearly getting away with it too. I don’t know something about the idea of setting your entire future up in a matter of hours and never having to worry about money makes me very excited and makes me just want to read more. Overall Mezrich does an amazing job grabbing your attention and holding on to it while moving just fast enough to keep the story flowing. So if you’re ready for an exciting crime story than this book is definitely for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only likable characters in this yawn fest are those who finally bring the main character to justice. 
MikeC_NJ More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting story, but not as good as Ben's other books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
worthless book, there is no fact behind the writing, it is like a really long winded tabloid magazine article.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rfortson More than 1 year ago
I guess it could be a good story, but it's sorely lacking in facts and authenticity. Knowing JSC fairly well, it's obvious the author made up scenarios (or believed Thad, a known con-man). Either way, it made for a distracting book. Plus, the fawning over Thad was over the top. I just couldn't finish the book as there were too many fabrications, and too much glorification of a common thief. I couldn't trust anything the book said. Sadly, now I'm wondering how much was fabricated in his Facebook story. Save your time, or at least don't take it seriously.
B-2 More than 1 year ago
Captivating and enjoyable work of non-fiction. The author tell the story of a brilliant and ambitious young man, who, while working for NASA, developed an insane scheme to steal some of priseless Moon samples and to sell them through the internet - and what come out of it. In addition to the thrilling, easy-to-read and consuming story, the added advantage of the book is the insights in the worlds as different as NASA scientific community and Florida county jails. Author's ( forgivable ) weakness is maybe being too sympathetic to his hero, who is painted more as a romantic dreamer than (to me) as self-centered cleptomaniac. Oh, and - I know, the name of the book is somewhat lame - but yes, it does technically take place there, too. I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). This one is a strong RLR.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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andrewRV More than 1 year ago
SEX ON THE MOON by Ben Mezrick has a very eye catching name and even a flashier story, that almost seems like it was made for a movie. The story centers around a man by the name of Thad Roberts, growing up Mormon, Thad decides to leave his faith and marry a woman young, being disowned by his parents. He then goes on to enter a NASA internship program. While working in this program he meets a beautiful intern, Rebecca that he soon falls for. He soon uncovers that deep within the Johnson space center there is a safe that contains nearly 21 million dollars worth of moon rocks. He tells Rebecca of his plan and they both begin on how they’re going to pull it off. In the middle of the night they just walk into the Johnson Space center with two other people and carry the 600 pound safe right out. Eventually Thad decides to sell the rocks and using the alias Orb Robinson puts them for sale on a rock collector’s website. The FBI soon catches up to him and lures him in with the false promise of buying his moon rocks, and when he shows up he is quickly arrested along with Rebecca and the two other accomplices. This book was good but there are many things that I disliked about it, first it seems that Ben Mezrick has to describe stuff in such detail that just describing a hall way could take a whole page, also it felt like this whole book moves way to fast jumping from one thing to another in just a page. With that said there was a lot that I liked, the whole idea of stealing moon rock and actually getting away with it for some time just seems so cool and interesting, plus the fact that he basically got people to carry out the most dangerous parts of his plan makes him the man. If you like long books that could have been a lot shorter, this book is for you. Also if you like a good heist book that almost seems too unreal to be true this book could also be for you. But if you like a book where all the fluff is left out and you just get to the main facts fast, this book is definitely not for you. Over all I give this book a 3, it was too long for my taste and I found it a little too hard to get into
Connor_McCarty_Roll-Tide More than 1 year ago
Thad Roberts is a very intelligent man who loves to be challenged. He was working as a coop at the JSC and was a very up and coming star. He wanted to be an astronaut and it looked as if that as going to happen but he was becoming bored. Rebecca came along one day who was this beautiful new coop and he was instantly in love. He told her about his heist plan and she told him she wanted in on it. They, and one other friend, single handedly pulled off the biggest heist in history. The biggest theme throughout the book was that of keeping your situation moving forward no matter how good or how bad. Thad showed this multiple times: when he got kicked out by his family he got into NASA, when he was bored at NASA he made the biggest heist in history, and when he got out of jail he went back to school. No matter what happened he kept on moving. What I really like about this book is that it is a true story. It shows the hard times, good times, and thoughts behind a master criminal who turned out to be some stupid kid. The book kept me entertained as a reader and I never wanted to put it down, this might not seem that impressive but I am a high school senor who really doesn’t read much out of class. I didn’t like how much of a hero Thad was portrayed to be. He committed the biggest heist in history and should have been made to look worse. It showed him being very nice, very intelligent and much more which isn’t bad for a criminal. What I didn’t like about how they portrayed him was that the author seemed as if he was helping Thad justify the crime. It was horrible and should have made it seem that way in the book. I would recommend reading this book. It is interesting learning about one of the biggest heists in history and the book is well written. Some other books I would recommend are Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, and 21: Bringing Down the House.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Talk about trading copper for gold...after reading this story my life as a firefighter seems kind of boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dwntwnkbrwn More than 1 year ago
Very much enjoyed this book. It was a very easy read and captured my attention the whole way through.