When the histories are written, the Cold War will be considered one of the nuttier epochs of ur-humanhood. And perhaps mustered as Exhibit “A” shall be the brainshower of US military mavens that a nuclear weapon should be detonated on the Moon in order to “send a message” to the Soviet Union.
The United States Air Force was not created until 1947; by 1958 it was a confederacy of the criminally insane. It was in that year that USAF death doyens ordered doubledomes to produce plans for getting a nuke to the moon, and then there exploding it.
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.
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.
When sending a rocket ship to the moon first became possible, Soviet scientists proposed setting off a nuclear blast there to show the world its scientific prowess.
“In 1958 there was a plan to send an atomic bomb to the moon, so that astronomers across the world could photograph its explosion on film,” said Boris Chertok, 87, a leading rocket scientist from the earliest days of the Soviet space programme.
“That way no one would have doubted that the Soviet Union was capable of landing on the surface of the moon,” he said in an interview. “But the idea was rejected as physicists decided the flash would be so short lived because of the lack of an atmosphere on the moon that it might not register on film.”
Yet another lesson in why Bad Toys should be kept away from boys. It was not enough that the US had “sent a message” to the Soviet Union by incinerating several hundred thousand Japanese; to make absolutely sure the message was received, it was also considered necessary to start heaving nukes at celestial orbs.
Regular humans did not learn until decades later that in the 1950s the US and USSR were competing to transform the Moon into a glow-tomb. What rough beasts are today slouching around the brainpans of shoulder-boarded simians? Stay tuned.