Why US dropped plan to nuke the Moon back in 1959

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Bangalore, Nov 29: Ancient civilizations worshipped the Moon, billions of people around the world still consider it as a religious symbol and yet the United States once gave serious consideration to the idea of detonating atom bombs on the Earth's sole natural satellite.

Plans for the radical project were even drawn up by American military officials back in the 1950s when they were engaged in a game of one-upmanship with their counterparts in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

In the midst of the Cold War, the USSR earned bragging rights by launching Sputnik 1 on Oct 4, 1957.

The US tried to respond with Explorer 1 but nearly three months before it was launched on the last day of Jan 1958, the USSR put Sputnik 2 into orbit on Nov 3, 1957.

As the Americans hated ending up second, they mulled an out of this world nuclear detonation sometime in 1959 to startle the Russians.

As part of the secret project named "A Study of Lunar Research Flights" or simply "Project A119", the US thought of sending a rocket with atom bomb on it to the Moon.

The American military ruled out the hydrogen bomb option as the rockets available at that time were not capable of carrying heavy nuclear devices.

However, the idea itself was later abandoned mainly because most of the people involved were not sure about the tremendous repercussions on Earth if "Project A119" failed.

Moreover, its success would have led to radioactive pollution on the Moon. There is no denying that both these scenarios are scary.

"Thankfully, the thinking changed. I am horrified that such a gesture to sway public opinion was ever considered," says physicist Leonard Reiffel who was associated with the project.

Incidentally, the Americans did not release documents pertaining to the classified mission for more than four decades. It was only in 2000 that Reiffel first spoke publicly about "Project A119".

OneIndia News

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