November 28th, 2012
07:06 PM ET

U.S. had plans to nuke the moon

By Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell

You could easily skip by it in an archive search: a project titled "A Study of Lunar Research Flights." Its nickname is even more low-brow: "Project A-119."

But the reality was much more explosive.

It was a top-secret plan, developed by the U.S. Air Force, to look at the possibility of detonating a nuclear device on the moon.

It was hatched in 1958 - a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race that would last decades and drive the two superpowers to the verge of nuclear war. The Soviets had also just launched Sputnik 1, the world's first satellite. The U.S. was falling behind in the space race, and needed a big splash.

"People were worried very much by (first human in space Soviet cosmonaut Yuri) Gagarin and Sputnik and the very great accomplishments of the Soviet Union in those days, and in comparison, the United States was feared to be looking puny. So this was a concept to sort of reassure people that the United States could maintain a mutually-assured deterrence, and therefore avoid any huge conflagration on the Earth," said physicist Leonard Reiffel, who led the project.

Reiffel, now 85, spoke to CNN at his home in Chicago. A 1959 report Reiffel wrote on the project, declassified many years ago, was obtained online by CNN.

According to Reiffel's report, "The motivation for such a detonation is clearly threefold: scientific, military and political."

The military considerations were frightening. The report said a nuclear detonation on the moon could yield information "...concerning the capability of nuclear weapons for space warfare." Reiffel said that in military circles at the time, there was "discussion of the moon as military high ground."

That included talk of having nuclear launch sites on the moon, he said. The thinking, according to Reiffel, was that if the Soviets hit the United States with nuclear weapons first and wiped out the U.S. ability to strike back, the U.S. could launch warheads from the moon.

"These are horrendous concepts," Reiffel said, "and they are hopefully going to remain in the realm of science fiction for the rest of eternity."

The basic plan, Reiffel explained, was for an intercontinental ballistic missile to be launched from an undisclosed location, travel some 240,000 miles to the moon, and detonate on impact. Various news reports since 1958 have said project leaders considered using an atom bomb the same size as "Little Boy," the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, near the end of World War II.

Reiffel, who was cited for that information in those reports, now says he wasn't in on those discussions.

Contrary to some reports, Reiffel told CNN, the device would not have "blown up" the moon. "Absolutely not. It would have been microscopic, so to speak. It would have been, I think, essentially invisible from the Earth, even with a good telescope."

Reiffel had some brilliant minds on his team. One of them was an up-and-coming graduate student named Carl Sagan. Sagan went on to become one of the world's most renowned astronomers, creating the book and popular TV series "Cosmos."

But after working on the moon program, Reiffel said, Sagan violated security when he mentioned the still-classified project on a job application. "He did formally break the classification status of the project", Reiffel said of Sagan, who subsequently died in 1996.

Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, told CNN she's not sure if Sagan ever broke the classification, but if he did, she said, it wasn't intentional. "I can't imagine he would have done that knowingly," Druyan said.

By 1959, Project A-119 was drawing more concern than excitement.

"We didn't want to clutter up the natural radioactivities of the moon with additional bits of radioactivity from the Earth," Reiffel said. The project was abandoned.

Project planners also weren't sure of the reliability of the weapons, and feared the public backlash in the U.S. would be significant," Reiffel said.

"It disappeared in the files of the Pentagon", he said of the project. "They come up with what I believe was the right answer."

Contacted by CNN, the Air Force would not comment on Project A-119.


Filed under: Security Brief
soundoff (3,424 Responses)
  1. printing services near me

    Excellent post. I'm experiencing a few of these issues as well..

    http://dorahotelcompany.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=bestshopnearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 9:08 pm | Reply
  2. total wine near me

    Good info. Lucky me I came across your website by accident (stumbleupon). I have bookmarked it for later!

    http://www.5173.com/html/gg.aspx?url=https://hootnholler.net

    June 12, 2021 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  3. best pizza near me

    http://www.gihub.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=reviewnearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  4. culver's near me

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you should write more about this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but usually people do not discuss these topics. To the next! Best wishes!!

    http://dveventpro.info/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.reviewnearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  5. wesestotte

    best erectile pump loonee is erectile dysfunction a va disability
    erectile medication bimix Theotte erectile shots diagram
    which erectile dysfunction pills work Bribly fast erectile repair

    June 12, 2021 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  6. vietnamese food near me

    http://www.urbansolutions.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=wholesalenearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  7. vape stores near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this website needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the advice!

    http://www.pantybucks.com/galleries/hpf/64/clair/index.php?link=https://www.bonus-books.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  8. rignaPhype

    По ссылке https://rayskiyepodarki.ru/khrustalnye-tsvety можно отыскать хрустальные цветы Swarovski. Такие цветы станут отличным подарком для каждого человека, который действительно дорог. Популярные корзинки отличаются по названию, высоте и использованных для изготовления материалам. Понравившиеся товары можно добавить к сравнению. Стоимость товаров в вазочках и не только всегда находится на приемлемом уровне. Специальные предложения использовать может каждый человек.

    June 12, 2021 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  9. pizza deals near me

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner because I found it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this subject here on your web page.

    http://knowskin.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=bestshopnearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  10. halloween stores near me

    https://norma4.ks.ua/?goto=https://nearmyspot.com

    June 12, 2021 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  11. xfinity store near me

    http://www.kookiedough.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=masternearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  12. papa john's near me

    http://www.triathlon.org/?URL=www.bjsnearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  13. massages near me

    When I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

    http://corepoweryoga.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=wholesalenearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  14. reextDev

    safeway pharmacy online dominican republic pharmacy online food and drugs act canada

    June 12, 2021 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  15. Therese Palese

    I could not refrain from commenting. Very well written!

    https://donovano98z8.verybigblog.com/4047316/mercedes-sprinter-repair-shops-for-dummies

    June 12, 2021 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  16. Van Limke

    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reauthorization/reauexit.cfm?link=https://fernandoz48n9.blogaritma.com/4342413/what-s-everyday-living-coaching-and-why-daily-life-coaching-might-be-to-suit-your-needs

    June 12, 2021 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  17. Norman Agamao

    http://cristianp15j8.blogoscience.com/5802465/digital-marketing-course-options

    June 12, 2021 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  18. Cathern Gutermuth

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Thanks!

    http://www.shinobi.jp/etc/goto.html?http://franciscog69l7.blogdomago.com/4095814/the-greatest-guide-to-rv-body-shop

    June 12, 2021 at 1:16 pm | Reply
  19. Ivy Fitzgibbons

    As I walked up the incline, I signaled Frightful to conform with.
    We navigated the city streets to Venice Beach on our way finally out.

    German shepherds are not your typical bird dog, nor did I train him
    pertaining to being one.

    June 12, 2021 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  20. wesestotte

    does erectile dysfunction affect desire loonee erectile on demand pdf
    discount erectile medication Theotte is erectile dysfunction normal
    new york erectile dysfunction Bribly erectile tissue histology

    June 12, 2021 at 10:59 am | Reply
  21. aVelintiz

    Можно заказать на странице http://nashisite.ru/ SEO-продвижение сайта и привлечь больше посетителей, потенциальных клиентов. Продвижение помогает сделать сайт более видимым для запросов пользователей, поэтому это отличный способ расширить клиентскую базу. Перейдя по ссылке, можно ознакомиться со всеми особенностями SEO, а также узнать расценки компании на данную услугу. Например, можно заказать продвижение по дням или целый месяц, чтобы получить наиболее ощутимый результат и больше пользователей.

    June 12, 2021 at 8:57 am | Reply
  22. fipleVed

    originalcialis how long does it take for cialis to work 5mg where can i buy cialis over the counter

    June 12, 2021 at 7:12 am | Reply
  23. Sprinter Van Rooftop A/C Leak Repair

    http://doshigroup.biz/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.sprintervanrepair.com

    June 12, 2021 at 6:35 am | Reply
  24. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    http://starterupsteve.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=campervanrepairshop.com

    June 12, 2021 at 6:07 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Leave a Reply to viagra in canada


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.