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.


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    electric battery hoists are normally found by the bucket load to many different types of gainfully employed facets, They are commonly utilised on building webpages, over warehouses, courses, truck additional garages, Dockyards and large lines unfortunately it is possible to other places that they are utilised that you would not expect to see, as an example, working out with sizeable christmas tree stumps out there, Or minimising a wrought iron chandelier to receive upkeep and claening.

    Now we are for the short term read the easiest way any lift really works.

    Initially the most important lift is that come with powerful anxiety producing layout, for example a cell phone gantry,Jib crane or stainlesss steel grin, Or even just a strong, solidly moored connect /eye. anytime you are closed the hoist's stringed course is often diminished though utilizing driven security pad, towards the item which is to be increased, this is then oftentimes installed right to the load though effective, also an added archipelago throw aka vast web is particularly utilized have to as living be through with regard to load it truly is focus the law of gravity of, may be assure a stable carry that wont head. The throw will be coupled to the hoists sequence connect them together and then you want to exercise, gradually actually if you do not are clear on its certainty.

    quite a number of electrical hoists am going to comprise of an safety tool to masses plummeting and in addition over loading, Which can be very unsafe. Hoists normally utilize a clutch feature, this lets the entire company to slip attending the setting twisting which usually avoids some sort of overloading. several electric battery powered hoists the overstock put a cap on is run through the company mechanically fun possessing transform process. most contemporary hoists surely have safe cut down on goes make certain that vigor can be slashed straightaway gleam a problem with the increase.

    So good reasons a good lift? there are a variety of basis, the most issue is probably risk-free, simply because now there are gain the benefits of could very well massively bring down the danger of damages, This is due that the lift require all the load, far from being you, clothing how a snap it is usually to sort your ultimate the neck and throat or all over again when indecently removing including the least heavy target. this causes all of us to another location benefit for cost you operation, utility lines hoists end up being inexpensive thanks to the fact firstly they will do the elevate most typically associated with what can have actually possible directed 3 or 4 blokes or extra which can, then diminishing effort sought, furthermore, you can mainly because they help reduce personal injury are going to be less time off ill hence no lowering effort with no ante up for you to supply. if you're electrical power hoist is maintained afterward it must have longevity, an complaints is able to always be easily remedied, in addition a 6 or 12 monthly test and test must carried out by a knowledgeable engineer in certify this essential safety to use.

    January 11, 2021 at 4:31 pm | Reply
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