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…
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…
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.”
Calling that story a “plan” strikes me as a bit farfetched. It’s pretty clear that it never really got beyond the discussion phase. And a lot of things get discussed that never ever are likely to happen.
"If a nuclear weapon is exploded in a vacuum-i. e., in space-the complexion of weapon effects changes drastically:
[li]First, in the absence of an atmosphere, blast disappears completely.[/li][li]Second, thermal radiation, as usually defined, also disappears. There is no longer any air for the blast wave to heat and much higher frequency radiation is emitted from the weapon itself.[/li][li] Third, in the absence of atmosphere, nuclear radiation will suffer no physical attenuation and the only degradation in intensity will arise from reduction with distance. As a result the range of significant dosages will be many times greater than is the case at sea level."[/li][/ul]
I don’t know why this is a news story, other than the sensational aspects of it.
While I certainly don’t think anyone should be setting off nuclear devices on the moon, I’m kind of glad to see that the thought was broached at some point. It sort of gives me confidence that, at least in those days, “nothing is off the table” really meant that, and there was an air of “bring up your idea, no matter how stupid.”
And they did the study and found that yep, it sure is stupid. So don’t do it. And they didn’t. They didn’t even come close to doing it. They just commissioned a study to see how stupid it would be to do it. It’s almost ignoble prize worthy.
I agree–I just linked it so I could use the snarky thread title :-). The Pentagon had to consider the possibility that the Moon (or space in general) could be a staging area for various military activities, and I’m sure they continue to periodically re-evaluate its threat potential.