Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock travel to join Professor Calculus, who has been commissioned by the Syldavian government to secretly build a spacecraft that will fly to the Moon. Arriving at the Sprodj Atomic Research Centre, they meet the Centre's managing director, Mr. Baxter, and Calculus' assistant, the engineer Frank Wolff. After witnessing Calculus test out a new multiplex helmet for the planned mission, they are informed of the plan. Haddock is against the idea, but due to his hearing problems, Calculus instead hears him agreeing. An unmanned sub-scale prototype of the rocket — the "X-FLR6" — is launched on a circumlunar mission to photograph the far side of the Moon and test Calculus's nuclear rocket engine. Before the launch, the centre's radar picks up a plane which drops three paratroopers near to the centre; the incident coincides with the arrival of the police detectives Thomson and Thompson, who are initially mistaken for the intruders. Tintin sets out to locate the spies, telling Haddock to follow from the base, as he suspects a spy is in the base. Wolff follows Haddock out of suspicion. When Tintin spots the paratroopers, he is shot before he is able to do anything. At the same time, the power goes out inside the base, and confusion ensues, with neither Haddock nor Wolff explaining clearly what happened. This incident confirms the Centre's suspicions that the paratroopers were agents of a foreign power, but Tintin fears that efforts to trace any leaked information would be futile. The rocket is successfully launched and orbits the moon as planned, but on its return it is then intercepted by an unknown foreign power, who have used the leaked information concerning the rocket's radio control. However, Tintin had anticipated this and asked Calculus to rig a self-destruct mechanism for the rocket. The centre destroys the rocket to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Tintin reasons that there must have been an inside spy who leaked information to the paratroopers, but no suspects are found. Preparations are made for the manned expedition to the moon, but after an argument with Haddock, in which Haddock accuses Calculus of "acting the goat", Calculus becomes irate and shows Haddock everything that has been built. However, in doing so, Calculus forgets to look where he is going, falls down a ladder and suffers amnesia. After failing to bring his memory back through recent events, Haddock opts to use a violent shock to overcome Calculus' amnesia, though his attempts repeatedly backfire. Eventually, after saying the phrase "acting the goat", Haddock successfully triggers Calculus' memories. After regaining his knowledge on the rocket, construction is eventually completed, and the final preparations are made. On the night of the launch, Haddock initially backs out, though after hearing Thomson and Thompson feeling he would be too old to go, he angrily declares he will go. The crew of the rock finally board the rocket, and later lose consciousness as the rocket successfully takes off, due to the sudden g-force. However, despite attempting to make contact, the ground crew are unable to get through, with the book ending with the rocket flying towards the moon, with the ground crew repeatedly calling "Moon Rocket, are you receiving me?".
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