Crazy Cold War Space Ideas Nuke The Moon

Cold War Space Ideas
US Government Investigation Into Nuking The Moon

Today we will be looking into a ida that is something that both the US and USSR seriously looked into, was technically feasible, but never actually done, was to nuke the moon.

The idea is simple enough, if one doesn’t actually think of the consequences. If it is possible to land men on the moon, then it was more than feasible and possible to explode a nuclear device on its surface.

First found as a result of the resume of Carl Sagan, Project A119 was a team of X people that investigated nuking the moon. The project got started because the US military had idea that exploding a nuclear device would be a great show of military strength.

After coming up with the idea in 1958, a team was formed to study the feasibility of nuking the Moon. The team contained ten-members team led by Leonard Reiffel, which was assembled at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago to study the potential visibility of the explosion, benefits to science, and implications for the lunar surface.

Using a nuclear weapon at least the size of bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the plan was for the US military to have the device explode at the moons terminator. Choosing the moons terminator was intentional as exploding the nuclear weapon over the terminator would make the device visible to all those with views of the moon. The primary choice was to use a hydrogen bomb, but it was deemed too heavy for delivery

For those interested, it has been said that the device would be accurate up to 2 miles. But that assumes that the device functions properly as issues with the launch or other stages could cause contamination issues.

Project A119 was discountinued in 1959, with all papers remaining classified. As a result of a mention by Carl Sagan in a resume, the public learned of Project A119 and filed for a Freedom Of Information Act request. This led to the US Government releasing one document to the public as a result of a freedom of information act request. Everything else remains classified by the US Government. 

The scientific affect of nuking the moon would be catastrophic in numerous ways. Whether it be changing the orbit of the moon, making the environment radioactive and inhospitable for humanity, or setting the precedent for nuking celestial bodies for only PR purposes, nuking the moon is a terrible idea! The idea was a PR stunt, but maybe after they considered the scientific implications, they didn’t do it. Regardless, the US and USSR were both perfectly capable of nuking the moon and had the technology to make it happen 

Fun Fact: the Russians also had plans to nuke the moon at the same time as the US. Their reasoning was that nuking the moon would be a good PR stunt, but the idea didn’t come to fruition because of the Soviet worries about technical reliability. It was not because of their ability to nuke the moon.

There are many articles, documentaries, and videos made on the subject that can provide much more detail. Hopefully you enjoyed this quick overview of Project A119. 


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