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  Cold War Project A119: Lunar nuclear explosion

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Author Topic:   Cold War Project A119: Lunar nuclear explosion
SpaceAholic
Member

Posts: 3023
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-26-2012 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Daily Mail: US Planned to Blow Up the Moon
It may sound like a plot straight out of a science fiction novel, but a U.S. mission to blow up the moon with a nuke was very real in the 1950s.

At the height of the space race, the U.S. considered detonating an atom bomb on the moon as a display of America's Cold War muscle.

The secret project, innocuously titled 'A Study of Lunar Research Flights' and nicknamed 'Project A119,' was never carried out.

However, its planning included calculations by astronomer Carl Sagan, then a young graduate student, of the behavior of dust and gas generated by the blast.

Viewing the nuclear flash from Earth might have intimidated the Soviet Union and boosted U.S. confidence after the launch of Sputnik, physicist Leonard Reiffel told the AP in a 2000 interview.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-26-2012 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why this is news escapes me; it is not like this is a new revelation. The article itself refers to the Associated Press article from 2000 that was among the first to report on this subject after initial reports in the 1950s.

Heck, a Wikipedia article on the project has been online since September 2011.

And to be clear, it wasn't a plan to "blow up the moon" as the Daily Mail, and many of the subsequent headlines, suggest.

The aim of the project was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon to boost public morale in the United States after the Soviet Union took an early lead in the Space Race.

gliderpilotuk
Member

Posts: 3043
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 11-26-2012 02:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The aim of the project was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon to boost public morale in the United States after the Soviet Union took an early lead in the Space Race.
Oh, well that's all right then! More fool me for thinking Doctor Strangelove was fiction.

p51
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Posts: 771
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 11-26-2012 03:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You're right, Robert, it's not news at all. Must be a slow news day.

Remember, this was the timeframe when we thought nukes had all kinds of applications other than killing people in large areas. They were suggested for all kinds of uses, such as excavating for mining and underwater lane channel clearing. Some even suggested that we could have dug a Panama Canal-sized waterway in a few months with low-yield nuclear warheads in the right place. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.

It's not space related, but If you want to read something really spooky, look into how close we came to handing nukes over to France in their last gasps in Indochina in that timeframe. I shudder to think how history would have been changed had we done that as the French probably would have set one off at the end of the battle at Dien Bien Phu...

Blackarrow
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Posts: 2024
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 11-26-2012 03:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember talk in the early 1960s about exploding a nuclear warhead on the Moon. I can't remember the reasons cited (I was only 7 or 8 or thereabouts) but I remember thinking it seemed like a bad idea. Fortunately, so did the right people. I preferred the idea of rockets being fired at the Moon with people inside. I still do.

Glint
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Posts: 747
From: New Windsor, Maryland USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 11-26-2012 03:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Why this is news escapes me...

Same here. I have a May, 1958 copy of Popular Science that discusses hitting the moon with an atomic bomb. Someone gave me the magazine at least one decade ago.

The idea was to send two space vehicles. One to drop the bomb, and the other to fly through the dust cloud and collect samples.

The article is a discussion of flights leading up to a manned lunar landing in the year 2000 A.D.!

fredtrav
Member

Posts: 913
From: Birmingham AL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 11-26-2012 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NBC News reported tonight that the U.S. was going to "blow up the Moon" in the 50's to show the Soviets what we could do. Said Carl Sagan talked them out of it.

gliderpilotuk
Member

Posts: 3043
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 11-30-2012 03:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Daily Telegraph: A Moon landing with a bang (scroll down)
Apparently, Dr Strangelove didn't think big enough. Stanley Kubrick's famous film featured a Russian failsafe intended to blow up the Earth in the event of nuclear war - but now we learn that US scientists really were plotting to nuke the Moon. After falling behind in the Space Race, America explored the possibility of a lunar missile strike that would create enough of a flash and bang to terrify the Communists.

This seems a bit of a half-measure. If you're going to deface the lunar surface, why not go the whole hubristic hog, by blasting out an image of the Stars and Stripes, or the president's face, to dangle in the sky for eternity?

moorouge
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Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 11-30-2012 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Despair not. Project A119 did reach fruition. It became the main road that links Hertford and Stevenage in the UK.

gliderpilotuk
Member

Posts: 3043
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 12-01-2012 04:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Despair not. Project A119 did reach fruition. It became the main road that links Hertford and Stevenage in the UK.
That's plagiarism!

moorouge
Member

Posts: 1490
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 12-01-2012 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gliderpilotuk:
That's plagiarism!
So I watch TV as you do.

stsmithva
Member

Posts: 1319
From: Centreville, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 12-02-2012 12:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another sign that this is not a new revelation: it was covered extensively in a 1997 episode of the HBO documentary series "Mr. Show." Watch for the glitch NASA ran into at 2:20.

Ohhhhhhh, all right - "Mr. Show" was a great sketch comedy series. The pictures of Mars at the beginning have chocolate on them - I can't remember why.

All times are CT (US)

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