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America Once Considered Nuking the Moon

2 Jul 2018, 18:55 UTC
America Once Considered Nuking the Moon
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The American reaction to Sputnik was diverse, to say the least. Some people were terrified. Some were excited by the scientific prospects of the now-dawned space age. Others immediately jumped to ways to match then beat the Soviets. And one Air Force Physicist, Leonard Reiffel, thought the best course of action in the wake of Sputnik was to nuke the Moon…

The idea was summed up in a 1958 report somewhat innocuously titled A Study of Lunar Research Flights. It had, Reiffel wrote, a threefold rationale. It was a fitting scientific, military and political response.
On the scientific side, Reiffel envisioned soft landing three identical scientific instrument packages carrying seismometers and radiation detectors at random spots on the visible face of the Moon. These in situ stations would complement optical and spectroscopic observations from ground-based observatories and high altitude telescopes hoisted by balloons. Detonating the nukes then studying the nuclear reaction would teach scientists about the Moon’s environment and history, ultimately helping us understand the Earth.
On the military side, detonating a nuke on the Moon would give American scientists a first-hand look at the realities of nuclear weapons in space – what to expect from those detonated by ...

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