United States had plans to Nuke The Moon

Discussion in 'Military History' started by LurkerBaba, Nov 29, 2012.

  1. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    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.


    Reiffel, now 85, spoke to CNN at his home in Chicago. A 1959 report Reiffel wrote on the project, declassified many years ago, was obtained online by CNN.

    According to Reiffel's report, "The motivation for such a detonation is clearly threefold: scientific, military and political."

    The military considerations were frightening. The report said a nuclear detonation on the moon could yield information "...concerning the capability of nuclear weapons for space warfare." Reiffel said that in military circles at the time, there was "discussion of the moon as military high ground."

    That included talk of having nuclear launch sites on the moon, he said. The thinking, according to Reiffel, was that if the Soviets hit the United States with nuclear weapons first and wiped out the U.S. ability to strike back, the U.S. could launch warheads from the moon.

    "These are horrendous concepts," Reiffel said, "and they are hopefully going to remain in the realm of science fiction for the rest of eternity."

    The basic plan, Reiffel explained, was for an intercontinental ballistic missile to be launched from an undisclosed location, travel some 240,000 miles to the moon, and detonate on impact. Various news reports since 1958 have said project leaders considered using an atom bomb the same size as "Little Boy," the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, near the end of World War II.

    Reiffel, who was cited for that information in those reports, now says he wasn't in on those discussions.

    Contrary to some reports, Reiffel told CNN, the device would not have "blown up" the moon. "Absolutely not. It would have been microscopic, so to speak. It would have been, I think, essentially invisible from the Earth, even with a good telescope."

    Reiffel had some brilliant minds on his team. One of them was an up-and-coming graduate student named Carl Sagan. Sagan went on to become one of the world's most renowned astronomers, creating the book and popular TV series "Cosmos."

    But after working on the moon program, Reiffel said, Sagan violated security when he mentioned the still-classified project on a job application. "He did formally break the classification status of the project", Reiffel said of Sagan, who subsequently died in 1996.

    Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, told CNN she's not sure if Sagan ever broke the classification, but if he did, she said, it wasn't intentional. "I can't imagine he would have done that knowingly," Druyan said.

    By 1959, Project A-119 was drawing more concern than excitement.

    "We didn't want to clutter up the natural radioactivities of the moon with additional bits of radioactivity from the Earth," Reiffel said. The project was abandoned.

    Project planners also weren't sure of the reliability of the weapons, and feared the public backlash in the U.S. would be significant," Reiffel said.

    "It disappeared in the files of the Pentagon", he said of the project. "They come up with what I believe was the right answer."

    U.S. had plans to nuke the moon – CNN Security Clearance - CNN.com Blogs
     
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  3. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    I think I saw this idea of nuking the moon in Mad Magazine during that era.
     
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  4. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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  5. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    I forgot where did I read it yesterday :lol:
     
  6. spikey360

    spikey360 Crusader Senior Member

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    What if the rocket failed and the nuclear warhead detonated on US soil? :troll: Worse still, what if the rocket broke apart in the atmosphere and rained down on other(read Soviet Bloc) countries?
     
  7. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    Of the two super powers of the cold war days, I wouldn't say one was more evil than the other :)
    But the US sure was the crazier one.
     
  8. spikey360

    spikey360 Crusader Senior Member

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    Amen to that. They were the laggards for a long time.
     
  9. Blackwater

    Blackwater Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    thank god his hoilliness is about to reach moon
     
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  10. Snuggy321

    Snuggy321 Regular Member

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    HAHA, almost forgot it. I laughed so hard when I first heard it. " I guarantee you in 5 years!!"


    OT: Might be a silly question, but what if you nuke the moon and parts of it fall on the earth as asteroids ? :shocked:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  11. Blackwater

    Blackwater Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    5 yrs will be completed in 2013:taunt::taunt: forget moon lahore me 3 din se gas nahi a rahi ha.:taunt::taunt:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015

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