11

“Rolligon” is mentioned a few times in the novel. One mention is in chapter 9, about the site of the big secret construction project.

Nevertheless many people were there, during and after construction. Even Warden visited and my co-husband Greg showed him around. Warden went by mail rocket, commandeered for day, and his Cyborg was given coordinates and a radar beacon to home on—a spot in fact not far from site. But from there was necessary to travel by rolligon and our lorries were not like passenger buses from Endsville to Beluthihatchie in old days; they were cargo carriers, no ports for sightseeing and a ride so rough that a human cargo had to be strapped down. Warden wanted to ride up in cab but—sorry, Gospodin!—just space for wrangler and his helper and took both to keep her steady.

Three hours later he did not care about anything but getting home. He stayed one hour and was not interested in talk about purpose of all this drilling and value of resources uncovered.

Another is near the end of chapter 24 about the warship that attacked Hong Kong Luna.

I looked up from a long roll of paper. “Mike, these news stories and our message to F.N. all assume that we have won in Hong Kong. How sure are you?”

“Probability in excess of eighty-two percent.”

“Is that good enough to send these out?”

“Man, the probability that we will win there, if we haven't already, approaches certainty. That transport can't move; the others were dry, or nearly. There isn't that much monoatomic hydrogen in HKL; they would have to come here. Which means moving troops overland by rolligon—a rough trip with the Sun up even for Loonies—then defeat us when they get here. They can't. This assumes that that transport and its troops are no better armed than the others.”

It sounds like rolligon is some mode of transportation on the Moon, but I'd like to know in more detail. The word isn't in my large dictionary, so I suspect Heinlein made it up.

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According to this article on History Things, the Rolligon was invented in the 1950s, well before The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress was written.

See also this preview of THREE-WHEELERS PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE vol.1 on Google Books.

So basically a Rolligon is a vehicle that can travel over rough terrain. Here on Earth, most people never need to use such vehicles, because roads can be constructed relatively quickly and cheaply. But there weren't any roads on Heinlein's Luna, presumably due to the difficulty of constructing them combined with the lower population density; Loonies traveled by rocket, if they could afford it and if the destination had a suitable landing site, or by "tube" (which is presumably some sort of high-speed train) when there was enough traffic to make mass transit economically viable, or they used an all-terrain vehicle such as a Rolligon.

At the time the story is set, even the two largest and most important cities (Luna City and Hong Kong Luna) weren't yet connected by tube. So Rolligon transport was ubiquitous, although it seems that most people never travelled all that much anyway.

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