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The United States once studied the possibility of detonating an atomic bomb on the Moon as some kind of demonstration to the Soviets during the Cold War.
An abstract from the study reads:
Nuclear detonations in the vicinity of the moon are considered in this report along with scientific information which might be obtained from such explosions. The military aspect is aided by investigation of space environment, detection of nuclear device testing, and capability of weapons in space. A study was conducted of various theories of the moon's structure and origin, and a description of the probable nature of the lunar surface is given. The areas discussed in some detail are optical lunar studies, seismic observations, lunar surface and magnetic fields, plasma and magneti3 field effects, and organic matter on the moon.
On Sunday, the Daily Mail revived the story, citing a 12-year-old interview with physicist Leonard Reiffel, formerly of the U.S. military-backed Armour Research Foundation and later a deputy director of NASA. Celebrated astronomer Carl Sagan also was said to have been involved with the secret project, which reportedly was known as “A Study of Lunar Research Flights” or “Project A119.” Sagan died in 1996.
In the interview, Reiffel reportedly said the plan had been to launch a rocket that would deliver a small nuclear device to the moon’s surface, where it would detonate.
Reiffel, now 85, is believed to be the only official to have publicly confirmed his association with the project. However, a 190-page document called “A Study of Lunar Research Flights, Volume I” is available online through the Information for the Defense Community database. The document, available in PDF format, is credited to Reiffel and bears the heading of Air Force Special Weapons Center and the Air Research and Development Command based at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
In an interview with The Observer, also in 2000, Reiffel said he did not know why the plans were scrapped but was glad that they were. “Thankfully, the thinking changed. I am horrified that such a gesture to sway public opinion was ever considered,” he said.
In a new interview with The Huffington Post, Richard Rhodes, a Pulitzer-prize-winning author and an affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said he was unfamiliar with Project A119. If there had been a plan to send a nuclear missile to the moon in the 1950s, he said, it would have been hard-pressed to advance past the study stage. The first Soviet craft crash-landed on the moon in 1959, followed three years later by the American craft Ranger 4, reports National Geographic.
“I doubt we had any rockets that would have had the power to leave earth’s orbit and hit the moon,” Rhodes said. “It takes a lot of power to take things out of earth’s gravitational pull, much more than to just put something in orbit.”
You could easily skip by it in an archive search: a project titled "A Study of Lunar Research Flights." Its nickname is even more low-brow: "Project A-119."
But the reality was much more explosive.
It was a top-secret plan, developed by the U.S. Air Force, to look at the possibility of detonating a nuclear device on the moon.
It was hatched in 1958 - a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race that would last decades and drive the two superpowers to the verge of nuclear war. The Soviets had also just launched Sputnik 1, the world's first satellite. The U.S. was falling behind in the space race, and needed a big splash.
"People were worried very much by (first human in space Soviet cosmonaut Yuri) Gagarin and Sputnik and the very great accomplishments of the Soviet Union in those days, and in comparison, the United States was feared to be looking puny. So this was a concept to sort of reassure people that the United States could maintain a mutually-assured deterrence, and therefore avoid any huge conflagration on the Earth," said physicist Leonard Reiffel, who led the project.
Read the complete story here: CNN
From the Huffington Post:
Atomic Bomb On Moon? U.S. Had Secret Plan To Nuke Moon During Cold War, Media Reports Say
A story that surfaced over a decade ago is making the rounds again this week, as some media outlets are reporting that the U.S. considered detonating an atomic bomb on the moon in an effort to intimidate the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.
On Sunday, the Daily Mail revived the story, citing a 12-year-old interview with physicist Leonard Reiffel, formerly of the U.S. military-backed Armour Research Foundation and later a deputy director of NASA. Celebrated astronomer Carl Sagan also was said to have been involved with the secret project, which reportedly was known as "A Study of Lunar Research Flights" or "Project A119." Sagan died in 1996.
Read more at Huffington Post:
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