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 (3,666 Responses)
  1. RV Repairs Near Me

    http://www.copus.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrvcenter.com

    June 21, 2021 at 10:25 am | Reply
  2. aquarium near me

    http://www.audicatalog.com/redirect.php?link=https://quotenearme.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 9:52 am | Reply
  3. coronavirus testing near me

    Having read this I thought it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

    https://fid.com.ua/redirect/?go=https://bjsnearme.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 9:31 am | Reply
  4. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be helpful to read through articles from other writers and use a little something from their websites.

    http://www.green-travel.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrvcenter.com

    June 21, 2021 at 8:05 am | Reply
  5. pharmaceptica.com

    plaquenil drug class https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 8:05 am | Reply
  6. wesestotte

    erectile mastery exercises loonee erectile hopeless
    erectile dysfunction reviews Theotte medication induced erectile dysfunction
    best erectile dysfunction supplement Bribly muse for erectile dysfunction

    June 21, 2021 at 7:24 am | Reply
  7. Leticia Navanjo

    For more information and directions, go to the DuQuoin Condition Fair Internet website. A Bachelor Party ought to happen at minimum 1 to two months prior to the Wedding. Poker chips produced of plastic function just fine.

    http://www.mortgageboss.ca/link.aspx?cl=960&l=5648&c=13095545&cc=8636&url=https://pridewv.org

    June 21, 2021 at 6:23 am | Reply
  8. www.pharmaceptica.com

    chloroquine natural sources https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 6:09 am | Reply
  9. orolemal

    Люди, решившие утеплить стены квартир и домов, фасады зданий и домов, обращаются на сайт https://uteplenie.net.ua / в любое удобное для них время. Наши специалисты хорошо разбираются в специфике наружного утепления, реализуя оперативно даже самые крупные и масштабные проекты. Работы завершаются альпинистами – высотниками всегда ответственно, вне зависимости от высоты и этажности здания. Качество работы сертифицированных сотрудников гарантируется, а деятельность осуществляется по разрешительным документам.

    June 21, 2021 at 3:57 am | Reply
  10. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    http://egreenbuild.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 3:14 am | Reply
  11. therapist near me

    Howdy! This article could not be written much better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this article to him. Fairly certain he'll have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

    http://bruce-power.biz/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=bestlocalnearme.com

    June 21, 2021 at 2:25 am | Reply
  12. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Great blog you have here.. Itís hard to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    http://aiworkbench.info/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com

    June 21, 2021 at 2:25 am | Reply
  13. wesestotte

    ace inhibitors erectile dysfunction loonee erectile stimulus
    does erectile disfunction affect mastarbation Theotte can erectile dysfunction happen suddenly
    erectile booster Bribly erectile pill as shown on shark tank

    June 20, 2021 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  14. computer stores near me

    https://www.gvomail.com/redir.php?k=1560a19819b8f93348a7bc7fc28d0168&url=https://bestservicenearme.com/

    June 20, 2021 at 11:17 pm | Reply
  15. pharmaceptica

    tadalafil powder suppliers https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 20, 2021 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  16. Colby Sloan

    Humberto Brenes is the owner of some restaurants and a Tv channel in Costa Rica. Always believe to the degree of your opponent - there is no need to trick someone who willingly walks into traps.

    http://danberube.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=pridewv.org

    June 20, 2021 at 7:49 pm | Reply
  17. www.pharmaceptica.com

    erectile vacuum pump for sale https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 20, 2021 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  18. Kathline Adee

    https://www.l214.com/lettres-infos/partage/?nom=7ème+jour:+les+poulets+de+chair&url=https://www.ocrvcenter.mobi

    June 20, 2021 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  19. Jaime Garr

    I really like reading an article that will make people think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

    http://www.ric.edu/Pages/link_out.aspx?target=https://socallandscapers.com

    June 20, 2021 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  20. www.pharmaceptica.com

    buy sildenafil 20 mg without prescription https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 20, 2021 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  21. wesestotte

    erectile pills gas station loonee erectile band
    erectile pump youtube Theotte erectile mastery program
    erectile issues after 40 Bribly erectile reverser

    June 20, 2021 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  22. Sebastian Calvillo

    https://www.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=https://abletonplugins.com

    June 20, 2021 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  23. Dscisshof

    дизайн квартир
    Tegs: дизайн квартиры https://www.dizayn-studio.ru/

    дизайн интерьера в москве
    интерьер офиса
    дизайн квартиры в современном стиле

    June 20, 2021 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  24. Saul Daire

    I really like reading an article that can make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

    http://www.feedroll.com/rssviewer/feed2js.php?src=http://www.ocrvcenter.net/

    June 20, 2021 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  25. isL6LivdFar

    745189 195848This will likely be a fantastic internet web site, will you be involved in performing an interview regarding how you developed it? If so e-mail me! 971444

    June 20, 2021 at 11:47 am | Reply
  26. Mike Mick

    Hi, check this product that can help to take care of your hair: https://bit.ly/3gJqhQH

    https://bit.ly/3gJqhQH

    June 20, 2021 at 8:05 am | Reply
  27. wesestotte

    erectile herbal supplements loonee what erectile dysfunction pill is the best
    erectile dysfunction and radiation treatment Theotte erectile on demand
    can erectile dysfunction be cured Bribly erectile anxiety

    June 20, 2021 at 7:59 am | Reply
  28. Social Media Marketing Consultant

    http://www.zdorov.online/goto.php?l=www.affordableranking.com/

    June 20, 2021 at 5:27 am | Reply
  29. Local Marketing Near Me

    https://internets.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.http://www.affordableranking.com/

    June 20, 2021 at 5:04 am | Reply
  30. Digital Marketing Consultant

    I blog frequently and I genuinely appreciate your content. Your article has truly peaked my interest. I will bookmark your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

    https://www.sumitomo-drive.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=http://www.affordableranking.com

    June 20, 2021 at 4:46 am | Reply
  31. Local Marketing Consultant

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be useful to read articles from other writers and practice a little something from other websites.

    https://www.paulscheffert.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=https://affordableranking.com

    June 20, 2021 at 2:36 am | Reply
  32. Social Media Marketing Specialist

    http://www.quantumusers.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=http://affordableranking.com

    June 20, 2021 at 1:57 am | Reply
  33. Content Marketing Experts

    http://www.airpowerincorporated.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    June 20, 2021 at 1:43 am | Reply
  34. Camper Repair Shop Near Me

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post. Thanks for providing this info.

    http://www.de.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=http://ocrv.club/prostar-collision-repair-shop-near-me/

    June 20, 2021 at 12:38 am | Reply
  35. wesestotte

    how erectile dysfunction affects reproduction loonee erectile disorder articles
    which erectile dysfunction drugs cost more Theotte does erectile dysfunction pills work
    erectile stimulus Bribly erectile machines

    June 20, 2021 at 12:03 am | Reply
  36. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    http://www.ric.edu/Pages/link_out.aspx?target=www.ocrv.xyz/rv-vinyl-wrap-repair-near-me/

    June 19, 2021 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  37. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    https://www.wsiefusion.net/Redirect.aspx?destination=http://ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-warner-center-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  38. RV Repair Near Me Now

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you ought to publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people don't talk about these subjects. To the next! Kind regards!!

    https://secure.duoservers.com/?lang=en&s_id=123179&rdomain=www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-riverside-california/&action=order

    June 19, 2021 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  39. wesestotte

    erectile food loonee discount erectile medication
    erectile d with matt lauer Theotte erectile synonym
    do erectile dysfunction pills really work Bribly is erectile dysfunction caused by diabetes

    June 19, 2021 at 4:28 pm | Reply
  40. satta king

    It's truly very difficult in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, therefore
    I simply use internet for that reason, and obtain the latest
    information.

    June 19, 2021 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  41. RV Repairs Near My Location

    You should take part in a contest for one of the best sites on the net. I will highly recommend this website!

    https://www.ams.ceu.edu/optimal/optimal.php?url=http://ocrv.guru/medical-bus-collision-repair-paint-shop-near-me-orange-county

    June 19, 2021 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  42. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    http://pinggu.zx110.org/review_url_www.ocrv.guru/rv-repair-shop-chatsworth-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 11:34 am | Reply
  43. RV Repair Near Me

    http://www.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=https://tinyurl.com/n46362dc

    June 19, 2021 at 10:54 am | Reply
  44. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    http://www.pt-br.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=www.ocrv.xyz/rv-inspection-near-me

    June 19, 2021 at 9:45 am | Reply
  45. RV Repair Orange County California

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I discovered it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this subject here on your internet site.

    https://www.sendfwd.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-granada-hills-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 9:41 am | Reply
  46. RV Repairs Near Me

    I was pretty pleased to find this web site. I need to to thank you for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely really liked every little bit of it and I have you book-marked to see new information on your site.

    http://brivium.com/proxy.php?link=https://ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-azusa-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 8:57 am | Reply
  47. lowes near me

    http://www.carlvolk.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.nearmyspot.com

    June 19, 2021 at 8:48 am | Reply
  48. wesestotte

    discount erectile dysfunction drugs loonee do erectile dysfunction pills really work
    erectile strength Theotte erectile failure
    erectile at 43 Bribly erectile lubricants

    June 19, 2021 at 8:40 am | Reply
  49. RV Repairs Nearby

    https://haltern-am-see.de/Inhalte/Startseite/Tourismus/Sport_Freizeit/Vereine/index.asp?db=17&form=RedirectAction&redirecturl=ocrvcenter.com/peterbuilt-collision-repair-shop-near-me&druckansicht=ja

    June 19, 2021 at 6:54 am | Reply
  50. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    Greetings, I think your blog may be having web browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Besides that, great site!

    http://elias.ztonline.ch/?a%5B%5D=<a+href=www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-rancho-santa-margarita-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 6:06 am | Reply
  51. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    Good info. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved as a favorite for later!

    https://blackfive.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=http://www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-dent-repair-near-me

    June 19, 2021 at 5:24 am | Reply
  52. SMAGMA

    First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick
    question that I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was
    curious to find out how you center yourself and clear
    your thoughts prior to writing. I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my
    ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10
    to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any ideas or hints? Kudos!

    June 19, 2021 at 3:32 am | Reply
  53. gnc near me

    Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I will send this information to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

    https://aro.lfv.se/ViewSwitcher/SwitchView?mobile=True&returnUrl=https://bestshopnearme.com/

    June 19, 2021 at 3:32 am | Reply
  54. RV Repair Shop Near Me

    https://sv.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=www.ocrvexperts.com/rv-repair-shop-rancho-palos-verdes-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 2:27 am | Reply
  55. Check out my NEW store.

    Someone necessarily assist to make critically posts I would state.
    That is the very first time I frequented your website page and so far?
    I amazed with the research you made to make this particular put up incredible.
    Excellent task!

    June 19, 2021 at 1:42 am | Reply
  56. wesestotte

    erectile therapist loonee erectile disorder articles
    erectile function paralysis Theotte is erectile dysfunction secondary to ptsd
    dealing with erectile dysfunction Bribly erectile injection therapy plan

    June 19, 2021 at 12:39 am | Reply
  57. RV Repair Near My Location

    http://www.earth-policy.org/?URL=www.ocrvcenter.com/motorhome-supplies-near-me

    June 19, 2021 at 12:25 am | Reply
  58. Camper Repair Places Near Me

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Kudos!

    http://ssomgmt.ascd.org/profile/createsso/createsso.aspx?returnurl=www.ocrv.rocks/rv-repair-shop-diamond-bar-california/

    June 18, 2021 at 11:54 pm | Reply
  59. RV Repair Nearby

    I really like it when folks come together and share views. Great website, keep it up!

    http://www.jdsc.com.cn/adSystem/adsview/?action=click&area=pageright2&id=97&url=www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-pasadena-california

    June 18, 2021 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  60. RV Repair Shops Near Me

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch simply because I discovered it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your web site.

    https://treasury.gov/cgi-bin/redirect.cgi/?www.ocrvexperts.com/rv-repair-shop-glendora-california/

    June 18, 2021 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  61. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't fail me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, however I actually thought you'd have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.

    https://findit.timesleader.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrv.vip/garbage-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me/

    June 18, 2021 at 8:20 pm | Reply
  62. RV Repair Shop

    http://asm.com/Pages/Press-releases/ASMI-ANNOUNCES-AVAILABILITY-AND-TIMING-OF-THE-FIRST-QUARTER-2018-CONFERENCE-CALL-AND-WEBCAST.aspx?overview=http://www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-gardena-california/

    June 18, 2021 at 6:34 pm | Reply
  63. RV Repair Places Near Me

    Hi there! I could have sworn Iíve visited this web site before but after going through a few of the articles I realized itís new to me. Regardless, Iím definitely delighted I stumbled upon it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

    http://www.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/no_outbounds.php?o=https://www.ocrvcenter.mobi/rv-repair-shop-lake-view-terrace-california/

    June 18, 2021 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  64. Camper Repair Shop Near Me

    http://bestfwdservice.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=baidu.com

    June 18, 2021 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  65. wesestotte

    erectile discomfort loonee why erectile dysfunction happens
    erectile dysfunction injections Theotte top erectile dysfunction supplements
    erectile aides for men Bribly is erectile dysfunction a chronic condition

    June 18, 2021 at 4:43 pm | 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 30 31

Leave a Reply to Lebnreext


 

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.