Skip to comments.US planned to blow up the MOON with a nuclear bomb to win Cold War bragging rights over USSR
Posted on 11/25/2012 4:28:28 PM PST by DogByte6RER
Revealed: How the U.S. planned to blow up the MOON with a nuclear bomb to win Cold War bragging rights over Soviet Union
- Scientists were hoping for giant flash on the moon that would intimidate the Soviet Union
- Aim of mission was to launch the nuke by 1959
- Plan was later scrapped due to possible danger to people on Earth
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.
Reiffel, now 85, directed the inquiry at the former Armour Research Foundation, now part of the Illinois Institute of Technology. He later served as a deputy director at NASA.
Sagan, who later became renowned for popularizing science on television, died in 1996.
The author of one of Sagan's biographies suggested that he may have committed a security breach in 1959 after revealing the classified project in an academic fellowship application. Reiffel concurred.
Under the scenario, a missile carrying a small nuclear device was to be launched from an undisclosed location and travel 238,000 miles to the moon, where it would be detonated upon impact.
(Excerpt) Read more at dailymail.co.uk ...
I suppose just as long as your gyroscope is big enough to handle that much instantaneous energy release. “Where are we headed?” “How the F*** would I know?”
We wouldn’t do much more than leave a shallow scorched crater on the moon that probably wouldn’t be visible with the naked eye.
what if the big day arrives and its cloudy over the soviet union and no one can see? ever think of that?
I am guessing that thousands of tons of fine ejecta would circulate around the Earth and Moon for many years, with a small percentage getting captured by Earth and its atmosphere every year, day, week, hour, or what have you. It is not clear to me if this would be a significant loading of our exoatmosphere with radionuclides. It would lose its radioactivity at about the speed of any Earthbound nuke site.
Heh-heh-heh, you sly dog. That was on Mars, silly!
Thanks DogByte6RER. This story is bullsh!t. There was never a “plan” to do this, but some jackass or small number of jackasses in the Pentagon suggested this as a really good idea. It was roundly rejected at the time because it was both stupid and counterproductive. And in 1959, Eisenhower was still in his “everything is provocative” mode; in 1960 he kiboshed the US’ orbiting a probe, requiring that the top stage was non-functional. As if a suborbital rocket was less provocative. What a Peter Principle Success Story that guy was.
Sidebar — Von Braun’s F1 engine was developed for the DoD, as a delivery system for the Teller H-Bomb, which was a huge-assed design. The B-52 was also conceived as a delivery system for the Teller bomb. Turned out that a smaller H-bomb design was successfully tested and developed instead, but the B-52 went into production. The successfully engineered F1 was cancelled, but Von Braun managed to take it along with him as he sought support for a Moon program. He didn’t get it until JFK got tired of being shown up by the “(blankity-blank) Russians”. Not long after, Von Braun said in an article or interview that the upper stages of the Apollo would be 100% cryo, and the Soviet rocketmaster Sergei Korolev scorned the idea, claiming that the problems would be too much for Von Braun to solve.
The next time Korolev read about Von Braun’s 100% cryo engines, they were being successfully tested on the test stand. The USSR had lost the Moon race, just like that, even assuming that their approach would have worked. Korolev died in 1966; his N-1 booster with its dozens of engines never had a successful flight test, and according to one guy involved in the project, never even made it to the test stand most of the time.
The public should laugh the author of the article and the tabloid right off of the Internet for their sheer mendacious stupidity and scaremongering tactics.
As the article noted, the proposal is supposedd to have been a fission atomic bomb and not a fusion hydrogen bomb, because the missiles of the time were incapable of launching the extremely heavy hydrogen bombs of the day. This means the explosion would have been a sub-megaton yield similar to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki detonations. Such explosions would have been detectable on the Earth, but only by observers ready and waiting to observe a flash nearly too small to see and lasting for little more than a second in time. Since the Moon has practically no atmosphere, the blast effects would have been far less than those which occurred on the Earth. There would have resulted a very small crater, barely detectable with telescopes from the Earth.
The headline’s scaremongering about “blowing up the Moon” is as outrageous as it is utterly ridiculous. The Moon is routinely punished with impacts releasing far more explosive energy than such a small atomic bomb, and no one ever notices those explosions. The Moon far from being blown up or destroyed would hardly notice such an insignicantly tiny event in comparison to its history of impacts.
Everyone needs to laugh the author out of the business.
Of course poets would have been upset, along with other earthlings, if the moon had disappeared from the sky.
Sound like BS to me. Its like news report that say US have plans about invading Australia
To paraphrase Bugs Bunny; “What a Maroon!”
OK, that is a nice over-the-top hysterical hyperbole even for a London tabloid. Start with simple physics, it takes a great BIG ROCKET to get anything to the Moon. The Soviets did hit the Moon with Luna 2 in 1959 and that weighed 860 lbs. but we have to remember the fact that the USSR did have better throw-weight rockets than we did. Our best rockets at that time were the Atlas and Titan series and it took until 1962 for the Ranger 4 (806 lbs.) to actually hit the Moon [Atlas-Agena Rocket]!
Anybody care to guess what the lightest A-Bomb was at that time? I don’t know but I am willing to guess it was far more than 500 lbs. and then add G-Force resistance and an instrument package capable of controlling even a ballistic radar fused bomb would put it over the top there for that time period.
So what we have is an idiot newspaper looking at an old “blue sky project” and an even greater idiot writing the headline and introduction. Really stuck on stupid!
The first nukes that were exploded on Earth in July and August 1945 were bright enough to cause a reflected flash on the Moon visible to Earthbound observers.
I don't know if the Moon was in the right position to catch the flash on those particular occasions, but Richard Rhodes in The Making of the Atomic Bomb wrote about it as if this had indeed happened. I have not seen it recorded that anyone was actually looking at the Moon at those instants; possibly on some of the later scheduled tests.
FAKE!!!! Project A119 wasn’t the moon....It was Venus! Everybody knows it was Project A118 that was the moon. After John Glenn planted the bomb on the moon he returned and was fished out of the Pacific by that German aircraft carrier, (the one that had just launched the 1922 attack on Pearl Harbor). He filled FOX news in and so there ya go. THAT is how Project A118 was first known about. (Also, project A119 is still classified top secret so don’t blab it to any of those screwball FReepers, you know how they are!!).
Ever hear of a "Blue Sky" Project? It starts by imagining infinite money and ability thrown at a given goal - "Can it be done?" This is what "A Study of Lunar Research Flights" was and is. Every government has these and they are great fun and serve a useful purpose of challenging assumptions and old dictums.
As for this, it enables the Daily Mail to have its own fun and games about those evil/criminal crazies over the pond! Catering to their clientele so to speak.
Methinks we didn’t have the throw weight to get any of our nukes to the moon without an Apollo like effort.
This smells like bull Obama to me.
Blow up the moon? Nonsense. A hundred nukes would stir up the dust but have little effect otherwise.
Carl been doin’ too much pot even then.
The fission detonations would only begin once Orion was above the atmosphere.
What killed it was a failure of political will. Otherwise, we would have been to Mars by 1965 and Venus by ‘73. An interstellar version was also planned with a crew of 265 or so.
We would have had successful colonies on both the Moon and Mars by now.
Instead we settled for third or fourth best alternative and ended up with the dangerous antiques: the Apollo and Space Shuttle. Both now dead.
As for blowing up the Moon - now or in the 50s - not a chance.
The largest fusion bomb ever detonated was by the Russians yielding 90 plus megatons. Many craters on the Moon were created by detonations in the millions of megatons for comparison. And the Moon is still there ...
Illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator.
--Cornell BlakeleyDon't Touch the Moon--Cornell Blakely, 1958
If we focus on warheads, then the lightest one in 1959 was the W-25 which weighed between 218 and 221 pounds; however, it had a yield of only 1.7 kilotons (much lower than either Fat Man or Little Boy). Lager yield warheads ranged in weight from about 900 pounds to over 6,000 pounds - the US nuclear bombs were even heavier (the Mk.24 bomb weighed over 40,000 pounds).
Ah man, those WERE the days...sigh....
The American Werewolf Society stopped it.
No one was going to blow up the moon. It may be smaller than Earth, but it’s still pretty darn big. As someone else said, we could put a decent crater in it. Even the biggest nukes ever produced (by the Soviets, who else) barely scratch the Earth’s surface. Of course they destroy the heck out of stuff within 10 miles and will leave a big crater with a huge scar....but it’s still no more than a scratch in our planet’s crust.
Not even Tzar Bomba (designed for 100 megaton yield but tested at 50) would have done much more than made a light show and kicked up the dust.
Our largest thermonuclear weapons were developed and tested prior to 1959.
With the increasing accuracy of our delivery systems we were able to reduce the yields of the weapons and thus the requirements for the huge quantities of fissile materials needed to build them. The people who were responsible for the development and employment of nuclear weapons did not want massive weapons, only ones big enough to perform required tasks needed to fight a war and thus deter our enemies from starting one.
Then, we would have had to rename Moon Pies. And I ain’t taking a bite out of anything called a Uranus Pie.
Thank you - I was hoping that pic was here. :o)
Seemed perfect. Funny thing is, last night I was thinking of this picture.
Ever see the movie? I watched it for the first time today:
The entire nuclear arsenal of the planet at the heighth of the cold war (~50,000 Mt) fabricated into one bomb would hardly make a noteworthy new crater on the moon aside from the fact that the surface in the blast area would be vitrified and reflect some more light.
Major extinction events here have been in association with energy releases on the line of 200,000,000 Mt, and while it screwed the earth up, it came no where near destoying it, or all life on it for that matter (which would actually probably take reliquifying the lithospere to a depth greater than 1 mile).
I believe that’s closer to 16 or 17%, I think you lost a decimal place there. If it was 1.2%, tides would be a few inches...
Damn, you appear to have been right, 1/6th volume and yet that much less mass... It must have a creamy filling!!!
They say 1/4 the diameter, so if the densities were similar that is a ratio of 4 cubed, or 64. A bit under 2% by volume, and then the creamy filling factor (actually the moon does not boast a dense iron core as best we know).
The danger would have come if the rocket somehow did not make it to the moon, especially if it failed in low trajectory. Presumably the bomb would be set not to go boom in such an event, but it would be a source of radioactive dirt.
That wouldn’t be the first catastrophe to result from it. Without the Moon we’d have no tides on Earth, the oceans would stagnate, and Earth would slowly die.
I suspect if we put a crash program on it we could develop a bomb that would do more than that. I’m not saying we’ve got one ready in the garage.
“Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be a Moon-shattering kaboom!”
And we just voted these nitwits in charge of our health care.
Actually The smallest US warhead was the W54
These were subkilton, but in the Nagasaki range was the W44/Tsetse at 175lb. The Brits considered using an anglised version of Tsetse (Tony) as a primary for their 60s bombs, but eventually decided on UK designed Katie, which was even lighter
These all date from the early 60s
All that radioactive dust would have floated around and eventually got back into the Earths atmosphere...maybe years later.
Most of the dust it kicked up would have fallen back to the moon. Besides tons of naturally occurring radioactive space dust falls to the earth every year.
Yup, we think we would do “so much damage” to the moon by putting a nuke on the moon....
Hubris, thy name is humanity!
Maybe the concept was that the Soviets would see us attacking the moon for no discernable reason, and conclude that we were so deranged, that they should just stay very far away from us.
The B-52s did.
There’s a moon in the sky
It’s called the moon
And everybody is there, including,
OK, you’re right, it doesn’t rhyme.
That's a LOT of beer!
Not many are aware of the Lager Bombs. The trick was to shake them violently before lobbing them at the target.
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