Do you think we are living in uncertain times now? Well, at least it's no Cold War. In a plot that resembles one that an evil villain in a James Bond movie might love, the United States' government once planned to blow up the moon with a bomb.
The time period was the 1950s and the Soviet Union had just humiliated the United States with their launch of Sputnik 1, the first satellite orbiting in space. The United States' Air Force approached physicist Leonard Reiffel in 1958 asking him to develop a plot that would show a mushroom cloud explosion from the moon.
Innocuously named "A Study of Lunar Research Flights" or "A119", the hope was that the Soviets would cower in fear over such a show of impressive strength. The plan meant that a missile would launch an atom bomb, rather than a hydrogen bomb, which researchers believed would be too heavy for the missile, 238,000 miles away from the moon that would explode upon impact.
Why would anyone want to blow a hole in the moon? Reiffel said that it would have been a show of might against the Soviets, and to reignite American scientists' morale during the space race. The explosion would need to be very accurate so the Soviets could see it from Earth, so scientists intended to hit the missile at the border of the part of the moon visible from space. That way, the mushroom cloud could be seen from Earth.
In fact, the mission would have been scientifically plausible, with reasonable accuracy, by 1959. That was the year that the United States launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile. Reiffel said that scientifically it would have been possible to hit within two miles of the intended target.
However, the plot was eventually abandoned. Scientists worried that the explosion would have a negative effect on the planet earth if, for whatever reason, the missile failed.
Researchers also did not want to contaminate the moon with radioactive substances or to ruin the visage of the Man on the Moon.
The United States' government has never officially confirmed its involvement with this plan, and the plot would have remained secret, if not for Carl Sagan. The renowned astronomer, then a graduate school student, provided mathematical calculations for the experiment. While Sagan died in 1996, his biographer Keay Davidson discovered that he had discussed plot when he was applying for the Miller Institute graduate fellowship in 1959.
The plans were officially destroyed in 1987.
Published by Medicaldaily.com