Link #136: US Wanted To Nuke The Moon Once!


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Link #136: US Wanted To Nuke The Moon Once!

An illustration of the LCROSS “Centaur” impactor. Image credit: NASA/CC0 Public Domain

There’s no sporting event in the world greater than the Olympic Games when it comes to track and field events like races. In fact, in our last post, we spoke about the ancient Olympic Games beginning with just one event and how this one event was a 200 metre race.

This is possibly why, when we think of races, we usually think of 100 metre dashes and 40 kilometre marathons. However, there’re other types of races that are far more important than athletic races. Two of these are the nuclear arms race and the space race.

These races are far more competitive than athletic races. For instance, did you know that the space and nuclear arms race almost resulted in America nuking the moon to prove a point?

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When Did US Want To Nuke The Moon?

Lune Project A119
The explosion was intended to occur along the Moon’s terminator, for maximum visibility from Earth. Image credit: Thomas Bresson/CC BY 2.0

US planned to nuke the moon way back in the late 1950s. It was a 1958 top secret project backed by the US Air Force. In order to help the secrecy around the project, it was given unassuming names like Project A119 and ‘A Study of Lunar Research Flights’.

In the project, the US’s objective was to explode a nuclear bomb on the moon. Their plan was to deliver an atomic bomb to the surface of the moon with the help of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The ballistic missile would’ve been launched from a secret location on Earth and designed to explode at the moment of impact on the moon. The size of the atomic bomb was expected to be similar to the one that the US dropped on Japan.

What Was The Purpose Of Project A119?

Space Race
Image credit: lark caml

Project A119 was thought up smack in the middle of the nuclear arms race and the space race between the US and the Soviet Union. While the US was leading Soviet Union in the nuclear arms race, it was woefully behind in the space race.

Hence, it needed to do something big to establish its superiority. According to the Leonard Reiffel, the man who led the project, there were three purposes for this top secret project.

The first of these was scientific i.e. the US government wanted to learn the technologies involved. The second purpose was military i.e. the US government wanted to learn about space warfare. The third purpose was political i.e. the US government wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union and reassure its citizens of its leadership in the world.

Why Was The Project Cancelled?

Nuclear Grunge Symbol
Image credit: Free Grunge Textures – BY 2.0

While the project excited the US military initially, in less than one year, they were concerned. In fact, such were the concerns associated with the Project A119 that it was cancelled by 1959. There were three reasons why the project was cancelled.

The first was the danger of nuclear fallout from an explosion on the moon. Nuclear fallout is the release of the radioactive residues from a nuclear explosion into the atmosphere.

The second reason was the uncertainty of how the American public would react to a nuclear explosion on the moon especially after the fallout from the Hiroshima bombing. Finally, the third reason was the unreliability of the delivery process of the atom bomb.

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