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The first manned United Nations space flight, with a crew of three astronauts representing the United States, England, and the Soviet Union, lands on the moon, and the crew discover the British flag with a message dated in 1899. On the earth, U. N. experts seek out aged Arnold Bedford, who claims to have made the trip to the moon 65 years earlier, and he tells them his story: In a Kentish village in 1899, Bedford, an aspiring playwright, and his fiancée, Kate, meet Joseph Cavor, an eccentric scientist who has discovered an antigravity substance he plans to use in the construction of a spaceship for a flight to the moon. Bedford contributes money to support the project, in which he sees a possible solution to his financial difficulties, and he and Kate go along on the trip. They find the moon to be inhabited by Selenites, ant-like creatures with whom Cavor learns to communicate. The Selenites live beneath the moon's surface, surviving by filtering the sun's rays through huge crystals placed at their city's gates. After many adventures with the Selenites, Bedford becomes hostile to them and returns with Kate to the earth, while Cavor, who is fascinated with the Selenites' scientific advances, chooses to remain behind to meet their leader and further his scientific knowledge. The U. N. astronauts on the moon enter the underground city described by Bedford, but they find only mysterious ruin and decay. Bedford watches their exploration from earth on television beamed from the moon, and he recalls that Cavor had a cold, which apparently spread and caused the extinction of the Selenites.