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 (2,640 Responses)
  1. Maserati Servicing

    http://www.multipullsoft.it/ViewSwitcher/SwitchView?mobile=False&returnUrl=http://www.maseratiforum.net

    May 16, 2021 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  2. Sprinter 2500 Front Glass Repair

    https://www.he-web.com/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=6111&url=https://www.fleetservicesorangecounty.com/box-truck-restoration-shop-near-me

    May 16, 2021 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  3. Maserati Charlotte

    http://originofwealth.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=http://maseratiforum.net/

    May 16, 2021 at 2:34 pm | Reply
  4. waw

    Its not my first time to pay a quick visit this web page, i
    am visiting this website dailly and obtain fastidious information from here all the time.

    May 16, 2021 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  5. agen judi deposit via pulsa

    Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is great, as well as the content!

    May 16, 2021 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  6. aitan arena aika private server

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am going through problems with your RSS. I don’t know why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody having the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

    https://53938.measurementapi.com/serve?action=click&publisher_id=53938&site_id=92394&sub_campaign=g5e_com&url=https://aikareborn.com

    May 16, 2021 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  7. Aikaonline

    You are so awesome! I do not believe I've truly read through something like that before. So wonderful to discover another person with unique thoughts on this topic. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

    http://emails.erieinsurance.com/ern40/c2.php?ERIN/37662445/139490/H/N/V/https://aikareborn.com/

    May 16, 2021 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  8. buy modalert

    buy provigil modafinil 200mg

    May 16, 2021 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  9. Sprinter Repair Los Angeles

    &mid=12872

    May 16, 2021 at 11:50 am | Reply
  10. avanafil

    buy avana canada buy avana usa

    May 16, 2021 at 10:59 am | Reply
  11. Invilllob

    снятие порчи
    Tegs: приворот https://videnie.org/services/love-privorot/

    обучение астральной магии
    курсы астральной магии
    курсы биоэнергетики

    May 16, 2021 at 10:46 am | Reply
  12. Mercedes Sprinter Service

    http://www.avitop.com/aviation/link.asp?snd=4208&url=http://hotnewsindia.com/transfer-ips-pps-aig-dig-ssp-sp/

    May 16, 2021 at 10:39 am | Reply
  13. Gtnbclups

    buy viagra online cheapest https://jokviagra.com/ can women take viagra

    May 16, 2021 at 9:19 am | Reply
  14. Video Marketing Firms

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

    May 16, 2021 at 7:34 am | Reply
  15. Internet Marketing Company California

    Hi there! I simply wish to give you a huge thumbs up for your excellent info you've got here on this post. I will be returning to your web site for more soon.

    http://m.shopinanaheim.com/redirect.aspx?url=http://affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 6:40 am | Reply
  16. Aika Game

    I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this blog. I am hoping to view the same high-grade content from you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own website now 😉

    https://onionring.jp/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=281&url=https://aikareborn.com/wiki/warrior_unique_weapons

    May 16, 2021 at 5:51 am | Reply
  17. TetehQQ Agen Perang Baccarat Mobile

    Do you have a spam problem on this site; I also am a blogger, and
    I was wondering your situation; many of us have developed
    some nice methods and we are looking to exchange solutions
    with others, be sure to shoot me an email if interested.

    May 16, 2021 at 5:47 am | Reply
  18. Aika Online Download

    http://khazin.ru/redirect?url=https://aikareborn.com/wiki/cleric_honor

    May 16, 2021 at 5:28 am | Reply
  19. Video Marketing Pro

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

    https://www.ybmsisa.co.kr/ybmsisacom.asp?siteurl=affordableranking.com&pageurl=/event/revent/20180222/event.jsp

    May 16, 2021 at 5:27 am | Reply
  20. mbee.com.vn

    Hi there everyone, it's my first pay a quick visit at this web page, and
    post is really fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these
    types of articles or reviews.

    May 16, 2021 at 5:23 am | Reply
  21. markowouck

    На сайте детейлинг – центра https://5plus-detailing.ru/ можно заказать комплексные услуги по отделке машины. Оперативность работ, доступная цена и высокое качество всегда будут обеспечены. На сайте можно как записаться, так и получить прайс. Оклейка пленкой всегда производится ответственно, а используемые материалы являются надежными и долговечными. Со стороны компании также осуществляется в том числе и предпродажная подготовка. Ремонт автомобильных (в том числе и лобовых) стекол, фар и не только доступен для каждого.

    May 16, 2021 at 5:20 am | Reply
  22. aika online download

    https://www.nsbe.org/impakredirect.aspx?url=http://aikareborn.com/forums/forum-events.11

    May 16, 2021 at 4:52 am | Reply
  23. Gay Men Porn

    Heya this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if
    blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so
    I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help
    would be enormously appreciated!

    May 16, 2021 at 4:17 am | Reply
  24. Digital Marketing Specialists

    http://55plusproperties.info/RealtorWebPage?template=embed&customlink_id=2536431140&content=http://affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 2:57 am | Reply
  25. Social Media Marketing California

    http://www.icv2sucks.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 2:44 am | Reply
  26. Social Media Marketing Pro

    http://hy.zhhlzzs.com/huiyi/theme/cerulean?url=http://affordableranking.com/

    May 16, 2021 at 2:37 am | Reply
  27. Aika Online Pran

    https://abc.huomao.com/url?rewrite=https://aikareborn.com/wiki/warlock_unique_weapons

    May 16, 2021 at 2:23 am | Reply
  28. ovaahsiday

    Натяжные потолки в Тюмени на сайте https://hitekpotolki.ru/ можно бесплатно по размерам приобретать. Проектирование выполняться может бесплатно и на месте. Общение в формате подробной консультации позволяет рассчитать точную стоимость материалов, а также получить ответы на все интересующие вопросы. Чтобы уточнить цену потолка, достаточно позвонить по указанным номерам телефонов. Замер производится совершенно бесплатно. Гарантия всегда распространяется на реализуемую продукцию.

    May 16, 2021 at 1:12 am | Reply
  29. Internet Marketing Tustin

    I needed to thank you for this very good read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new things you post…

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

    May 16, 2021 at 12:32 am | Reply
  30. Internet Marketing Specialist

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!

    https://ruchnoi.ru/ext_link?url=https://www.affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 12:00 am | Reply
  31. Pete Styers

    And huge East, Big Ten or ACC team was demanded. We went from your highway
    to some tar road and then to a crushed gravel road.
    Missouri is also renowned as for the rolling hills and great weather.

    May 15, 2021 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  32. combigan

    combigan generic brimonidine use

    May 15, 2021 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  33. Aika Mmo

    https://aikareborn.com/members/allangostoso.32765

    May 15, 2021 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  34. shared hosting

    I couldn't refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

    May 15, 2021 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  35. brimonidine

    buy generic combigan brimonidine tartrate 2%

    May 15, 2021 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  36. Aika Online

    https://aikareborn.com/members/gilberto.30510

    May 15, 2021 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  37. Social Media Marketing Masters

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be helpful to read content from other authors and practice a little something from other web sites.

    http://vanpeople.com/space/link.php?url=internetmarketingnevada.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  38. Get Yours

    Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I'm impressed!
    Extremely useful information specifically the last part
    🙂 I care for such information much. I was
    looking for this particular info for a very long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

    May 15, 2021 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  39. 먹튀검증업체

    Magnificent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff prior to and you're just extremely fantastic.
    I really like what you've obtained here, really like what you are
    stating and the best way through which you say it.

    You make it enjoyable and you continue to care for to keep it wise.
    I can't wait to read much more from you. This is actually a great website.

    May 15, 2021 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  40. Social Media Marketing Events

    http://guru-pon.jp/search/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=107&url=whatisdisplayadvertising.com

    May 15, 2021 at 8:48 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Leave a Reply to kevin


 

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.