Drax's evil scheme could have been pulled off without the use of spaceships. Firstly, it would have been much cheaper to build his Ark underground, environmentally sealed, than to build a space station in orbit. Secondly, Drax could have used aircraft to deliver the toxin. Why? Because he runs an aerospace company, and he had a radar jamming system for his space station. And even if it couldn't be fitted on a plane, stealth wasn't a complete unknown back then. Putting stuff into space is insanely expensive, up to $10,000 to put one kilogram into orbit, which is why you didn't take your last holiday at Utopia Planetia, Mars. But I guess this was all discarded in favour of footage of space shuttles docking, undocking, and performing course corrections.
Expense is nothing to a man willing to ship a French mansion to California stone by stone and rebuild it there.
And Drax was insane.
Insane, but also a genius. The cost of transporting a mansion from France to the US is infinitely smaller than the cost of putting a giant space station in orbit, building half a dozen space shuttles to supply it, and, say, getting enough people and supplies up there to repopulate the planet. And what about when they have to land? There are only a few airports in the world that have a runway long enough to accommodate a space shuttle, and there would have to be people on the ground waiting for their arrival. So why not have everyone on the ground? Drax could have built a secret city underneath the Amazon and just used the shuttles to distribute the virus (meaning Bond would have to go up and shoot them down). It's just a blatant cash-in on Star Wars, and by God it shows.
If you're going to end human civilization, do you care about your unpaid credit card bills? Drax can spend himself bankrupt ten times over if he wants to; its not like his creditors are ever going to collect, and once everybody but the Ark contingent is dead he has the entire wealth of the planet to loot.
Maybe Drax didn't have the idea until he had already built a space shuttle program and working space station, and at that point it would have been cheaper to put everything in orbit rather than build an underground ark.
The space station could serve future purposes; given that he wants to remake human society, one of his pet peeves might be that we should be devoting more time and money to space travel, and his new world will do that. Plus, the man has a God Complex; he probably couldn't resist the idea of raining down death from the Heavens. As for money, he is planning to annihilate the human race. If he succeeds (or if he fails and is caught), money isn't going to be all that important anymore (it would also be harder to get caught, for various reasons).
His speech on the space station begins by calling it "the untainted cradle of the heavens." He may have some kind of attachment to the idea of space as being pure and untouched by the forces that plague Earth. Considering his complete insanity (to the point of delaying the execution of those who trouble him so he can specifically do it in complex and "amusing" manners), it's a very symbolic measure. He finishes the speech by saying that people will look up and "find that there is law and order in the heavens." The man has a severe god complex, and (as said above) it makes him feel like he's ruling over the planet as he looks down upon it.
As for 'why no lasers elsewhere in the series', we do see them. The laser Goldfinger uses to almost execute Bond. The miniature laser in Bond's watch that can cut steel. Lasers of various sizes and shapes, but much more powerful than real-life ones per unit size, are in multiple Bond movies. People just don't use laser rifles on the ground because bullets work just as well down here and are way cheaper.
So in Moonraker, lasers are small and lethal enough to be used as an infantry and anti-air (anti-space?) weapon. We also have shuttles that can be launched in under an hour, and marines trained in space-borne operations. Why didn't this show up anywhere else in the franchise?
Pure Fan Wank here; the training of the space marines ran parallell to the whole space shuttle programme and Moonraker was the first time we saw them being used. Despite their critical role in saving the world, the political fallout from the massive loss of life and the cost of continuing the operation meant that funding was withdrawn from the project. Hence no space marines to take out the satellites in Golden Eye and Die Another Day.
Update: The US is actively pursuing "Space Marine" technology, including supersonic suborbital shuttles that can be launched from the (as of 2013) existing space ports, crashed into godknowswhere, the Space Marines relying on conventional transportation once the mission is over. The point being: "surprise! America is here!" super shock & awe. In theory anyway.
The satellites in those films were unmanned and their purpose was known so you didn't need the marines. As for the lack of lasers they probably fall into the awesome but impractical category. A normal rifle has a much better rate of fire. They were probably given to the marines as they fire in space and are less likely to puncture the hull. That doesn't explain why they aren't used as AA weapons in the future on Earth..
Rifles are actually able to fire in space perfectly fine, as the propellant includes its own oxidizer.
You still couldn't use them as if you were on the space station they'd puncture the hull, and send you flying if you were in space with a thruster pack. And I thought bullets had to be sealed to fire in space.
The falling out the airplane stunt early in film.... completely ridiculous and totally unnecessary. It looks as if it was added in post-production because the rest of the film was so terrible.
But all of the later Roger Moore films featured an over-produced teaser with eye-popping stunts. It's in line with those.
Likewise, James Bond in space shooting lasers.
Countdown to a space shuttle launch is 48 HOURS. Far be it for me to expect realism in a Bond film, but the speed at which the troops responded to Bond's signal was ridiculous.
I don't particularly care for this movie either, but... It should be pointed out that this film was released in 1979 (so it was filmed / developed in the '77-78 time frame). At the time, NASA's position on the Space Shuttle included the following (all figures from Dennis Jenkins's "Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System The First 100 Missions, 3rd Edition", ISBN 978-0963397454):
The expected manifest showed that [circa 1974], with the requested fleet of 5 orbiters (never happened), there would be ~60 missions per year. To be clear, each orbiter was expected to fly once a month.
Actual best 12 month period was 12 launches — and one of those was the Challenger accident. Admittedly, there were only four orbiters, but obviously the flight rate was far lower than expected.
The turnaround time (landing -> takeoff) was expected to be 14 calendar days, based on 2 shift operation.
Actual best turnaround time was ~50 days (pre-Challenger — afterwords, the time spent in turnaround only increased)
The cost / pound to orbit was expected to be $175 / pound (based on a total cost per flight of $10.5 million, FY 1972 $).
Actual cost / pound (FY 2000 $) was $8000 / pound (based on total cost per flight of $357 million).
Thus, judged by the standards of its time, the movie wasn't quite as silly as it seems today. For example, it would be perfectly reasonable to expect a shuttle to be launched within 2-4 days in an emergency situation. And it might be feasible for a sufficiently wealthy person to purchase a space shuttle (or 12, which is what Drax did — he only stole the shuttle that started the whole movie because one was damaged / destroyed or lost [don't remember which]). And constructing an elaborate space station is much more reasonable at $175 / pound to LEO.
Also remember that the world of James Bond is more advanced than ours. Many of the films have technology that we still don't have decades later.
Drax's explanation for stealing a Moonraker was that the intended one had developed a flaw during construction, and so had proven unusable. To further defend Moonraker, given the above: Drax ran an international Mega Corp. that was making space shuttles - if any one private person could get his hand on space shuttles in the world presented in the James Bond movies, it'd be that kind of person.
Which raises another question. Why did Drax steal the Moonraker back, thus attracting the suspicion of the CIA and the SIS? Why not just repair the fault, after all there's not as if there's any particular timetable he has to follow. And what would have happened to the two mooks in the shuttle if Drax hadn't have ordered them to retrieve the Moonraker?
The mooks are likely astronauts who joined him in the space station, and they were obviously hiding in there only after Drax found out about the flaw (or more likely, after the Moonraker was arranged to be shipped. As to the timetable thing- yes, he did have one. He would have needed one because the longer he put it off, the greater the chance either his secret launching pad, his space station, or worst of all his Weapon of Mass Destruction would be found out, not to mention his whole plan involved gathering the best of humanity at their physical peak, so the longer he waited the more likely they would succumb to age or injury, not to mention anyone involved might get cold feet and rat the whole thing out. Above all there is his controlling nature, which means faced with the choice of seizing control of the situation or accepting the hand fate dealt him, he'd go with the former. The "attracting suspicion" argument has the same flaw as the "how much did this cost" argument- its a moot point, when within days he expects to succeed in his plan to wipe out mankind. And he's too smug and elitist to even contemplate the possibility that he might not succeed.
Drax leaves a lot of people behind in the Jungle Launch base. Just what exactly do these people think are going to happen to them?
Maybe they didn't know what he had planned or maybe he told them it was a bluff or he told them he wasn't going to gas the Amazon, or perhaps they had a bunker. Whatever Drax told them his later comments plus the fact one of them was wearing glasses indicates he was planning to kill them too.
Two words, comparmentalized information. The ground crews only need to know that they need to launch 6 shuttles on such-and-such date. It appears that the nerve-gas bombs were already in the station when the manned shuttles arrived. Plus, would you tell them everything?
Drax would have needed people on the ground to enable the shuttles to safely land again, presumably that was these people's job.
What happened to all of the "perfect specimens" Drax picked for the space station? Everyone in white (and especially all the females) sort of disappear after Drax gives his speech and never show up again. Wikipedia mentions that they're all killed. Did they all just get left on the station as it exploded?
Yep pretty much, it sounds bad I know but remember they were cool with killing everyone on Earth.
At the beginning of the movie the Moonraker shuttle is being flown from the U.S. to England. After the Moonraker is hijacked, the jet carrying it crashes in the Yukon. Problem: the Yukon is the westernmost part of Canada, just east of Alaska. How exactly did a plane traveling from the U.S. to England end up there? Even assuming the flight started in California where the Moonraker was built, there's no reason for it to ever be over the Yukon.
Sorry but no. If you travel from San Jose to London, you will fly over the Yukon, because the shortest distance between the two cities is to fly close to the Arctic Circle. Flying directly west to east adds between 1,000 and 2,000 miles to the trip - and the Earth is rotating away from you the whole time - which it also is doing if you travel north by northeast rather than east by northeast, but the closer you are to the poles, the less there is a change of distance as the Earth rotates.
Where did Drax's guards in the space station fit into the whole "Kill everyone on Earth then repopulate the planet" scheme? Did they get a survival bonus or something?
Possibly any guards who didn't meet Drax's genetic standards would've been sterilized. They're spy-movie mooks; he could've insisted they get cyanide tooth-implants and then secretly thrown in a vasectomy while they were anesthetized.
Okay, I'll buy that Drax has a sophisticated radar jamming system that can hide his space station, without anyone noticing that someone is jamming them. But what about people just plain seeing it? The modern ISS is much smaller than Drax's station, and is visible to the naked eye (it's the 3rd brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon). Admittedly you have to know where and when to look, and it only looks like a really bright star, but it's there. Any commercial telescope can see the station for what it is. Even back in the 70's, there were thousands of dedicated amateur stargazers and astronomers constantly watching the sky, never mind NASA and the military. How could the station have possibly been built without being almost immediately noticed?
You answered your own question. In order to spot something that size with the naked eye, you already have to know when and where to look. Even if somebody does happen to spot it by chance while out stargazing, and even if they are enough of an amateur astronomer that they could go 'Wait a minute, that's not on the right schedule to be the Skylab/Sputnik/etc.', why should they immediately leap to the conclusion its a supervillain's unknown orbital space lair? They'd just go 'Oh, it must be another classified spy satellite. I wonder if its ours, or the Russians'?'
As for the possibility that the space station's size would be noticed from the ground as unusually large and bright, its important to remember that angular diameter is directly proportional to the size of the object in question and inversely proportional to the distance between the object and the observer. Or, in plain English, the further away something is from you the smaller it will look, even if its actual size when viewed up close is pretty huge. Since we're never told exactly at what altitude Drax's station is orbiting at, we can't make any assumptions about how it would look from the ground... or, for that matter, whether it would be visible to the naked eye at all. For another example of this phenomenon, consider why the sun and the moon look about the same size in the sky when the sun has approximately 400 times the diameter of the moon. Answer Because the sun is also approximately 400 times further away than the moon, of course.