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Give your sweetheart the moon with extra green cheese


The next time the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, it might not be the moon at all.

It might actually be a big pizza pie. Or, at least, a big ad for a big pizza pie -- which, believe me, is nothing like amore.

I'm serious.

If a company called Space Marketing Inc. has its way, you and your sweetie could be out walking in what seems to be moonlight, and then in mid-smooch, out of the corner of your eye, you look soulfully up at the moon only to discover it's suddenly got a big "Domino's" written across it.

A fantabulous night for romance?

"Gee, honey, is that a full Domino's or a half Domino's?" you say, whispering sweet advertisements into your lover's ear.

Yes, you do. Because, come 1996, unless the environmental community can bring sufficient pressure to bear, good ole Space Marketing is planning to launch giant, mile-wide, Mylar billboards into the sky. What a concept.

The billboards -- picture your ad here -- will appear in the night sky to be about the size of the moon, though, at times, slightly brighter. Orbiting at about 180 miles up, the lettering, thanks to reflected sunlight, would be visible to the naked eye.

Astronomers are steamed. Astronomers have been steamed for a while because cities insist, for some reason, on lighting their streets. You see, the more artificial light there is on the ground, the harder it is to see the celestial variety.

Now, with the billboards, you'd have other moons in the sky. Or more notches on Orion's Belt. Brought to you by, let's say, Pepsi.

Here's what I mean: You could be looking up at where you're pretty sure the Big Dipper always was and instead see this billboard: "If you lived here, you'd be home by now."

It isn't just astronomy at stake here. There's something significantly more important.

I'm talking romance.

I'm talking the concept involved in creating Moon over Miami -- not Alpo over Akron.

I'm talking walks in the moonlight -- the all-time cheap date -- unspoiled by heavenly pollution.

Must everything be commercialized? They've got McDonald's on the Champs-*Elysees. And now Madison Avenue wants to take the skies from us.

What in the name of Carl Sagan is going on here?

Shooting rockets into the sky is one thing. You get that rocket's red glare. Sometimes, you get bombs bursting in air. But shooting rockets in the sky to launch orbiting billboards is science gone over the edge, with the big push coming from corporate America.

"This is corporate advertisers invading us from outer space," says Dan Pontious, executive director of Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

Pontious alerted me to this problem. His group, along with many of your major environmental groups, from Earth Day 2000 to the National Audubon Society, have been writing letters and threatening boycotts and other things that these guys do.

This is an affront, Pontious points out, to everyone who enjoys looking up.

I called the folks at Space Marketing, which is located outside Atlanta. They referred me to their PR guy. The PR guy hadn't gotten back to me by press time. He was probably out spraying chlorofluorocarbons into the sky.

The guys at Space Marketing have been quoted on the subject, though. They call the billboard an "Environmental Space Platform," and point out that the platform would have an ozone monitoring device on it. Also, it would circle the Earth for only 20 days before self-destructing on re-entry. And it would be visible for only 10 minutes at a time.

So, why do it?

Did anyone say money?

And why does virtually every environmental group find this plan an attack on everything right-thinking people hold dear?

Because of the future, of course. Once, there was only one billboard. Once, there was only one neon sign. Once, there was only one blimp at sporting events, and now you've got battling blimps overhead -- Fuji vs. Goodyear vs. MetLife.

You can see what's coming: Tens, hundreds, thousands of orbiting billboards taking over the night sky. Fly me to the moon? Which moon?

That's a Kodak moment I can do without.

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