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"My feeling is that the chance of our surviving into the twenty-first century as working civilization is less than fifty percent but greater than zero."
- Isaac Asimov

Lunar Advertisement  
  An 'ad' on the lunar surface that can be seen by its audience on Earth.  

It started out as a perfectly innocent experiment, meant to add to the store of human knowledge. Just an extension of an experiment tried on Earth, or rather in the atmosphere high above the surface. Sodium ejected at a high altitude dispersed in a scientifically useful manner.

"...The sodium cloud will be completely invisible while itís rising up through the darkness of the Moonís shadow. Then, quite suddenly, it will flash into brilliance as it enters the sunís rays, which are streaming past over our heads right now as we stare up into space. No one is quite sure how bright it will be, but itís a pretty safe guess that youíll be able to see it in any telescope bigger than a two-inch. So it should just be within the range of a good pair of binoculars...Ē

Then a sudden yellow glow began to spread across the sky, like a vast and unwavering aurora that became brighter even as we watched. It was as if an artist was sprawling strokes across the stars with a flame-filled brush. And as I stared at those strokes, I suddenly realized that someone had brought off the greatest advertising coup in history. For the strokes formed letters, and the letters formed two words ó the name of a certain soft drink too well-known to need any further publicity from me.

How had it been done? The first answer was obvious. Someone had placed a suitable cut stencil in the nozzle of the sodium bomb, so that the stream of escaping vapor had shaped itself to the words. Since there was nothing to distort it, the pattern had kept its shape during its invisible ascent to the stars. I had seen sky-writing on Earth, but this was something on a far larger scale.

The next morning, every newspaper on the planet carried that famous photo of the crescent Moon with the luminous slogan painted across its darkened sector.

The letters were visible, before they finally dispersed into space, for over an hour. By that time the words were almost a thousand miles long, and were beginning to get blurred.

From Watch This Space, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1957
Additional resources -

Thanks to Winchell Chung for suggesting this item in a comment sixteen years ago!

Compare to atmospheric advertising from In the Year 2889 (1889) by Jules Verne, the Orbiting Casino Advertising Sign from One Against The Legion (1939) by Jack Williamson and the permanent skywriting from Soap Opera (1953) by Alan Nelson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Watch This Space
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to Watch This Space
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

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