That Time America Wanted to Nuke the Moon

A black-and-white image of a document's first page. The words "Air Force Special Weapons Centre" are in large print above an image of a crest or seal, whilst the title "A Study of Lunar Research Flights – Volume I" is towards the bottom of the page.

The 1958 project A119, also known as “A Study of Lunar Research Flights” was the initial response to the Russian Sputnik which was the first Satellite in space. The plan was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon. The reason? Because they could! The Americans wanted to show the superiority of America, and the best way of they thought of doing that was by detonating a nuclear bomb on the moon! The Explosion would be detonated on the surface of the moon(not in a crater) and would be put near the side where light and darkness met, so that people on earth could see the cloud from the explosion. Originally they had intended on using a hydrogen bomb, but they decided it was too heavy and instead went with a 1.7 kiloton W25  lightweight warhead. In comparison, the Little Boy bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945 had a yield of some 13–18 kilotons. 1.7 kilotons was not much at all, but could still be seen from earth. They finally decided that the population would react badly if the project failed, and that nuclear fallout would have a negative effect on future research projects and colonization.

The Russians were also working on the same idea of detonating a nuclear bomb on the moon(why not?). They even manufactured a mock-up of the spacecraft. But due to the possibility of if it failing in the early stages of flight and setting of a nuclear explosion on its fall down to earth, the project was shut down. Instead of blowing up the moon, scientists looked for how they could place a man on the moon. When they finally declassified the information, the world was shocked, but relived that they didn’t decide to detonate a bomb on the moon. Moral of the story: think things through before you commit. They spent about a year on a project, the Russians actually built their spaceship, just to say “nah” last minute.


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