Not a Conspiracy: The US Military Almost Nuked the Moon

10 years prior to the moon landing, the US military had the bizarre idea of detonating a nuclear bomb on the moon, according to unclassified Air Force documents

Why Did the US Military Want to Nuke the Moon?

The plan to nuke the moon—dubbed Project A119—was proposed in response to the Soviet Union seemingly taking the lead in the Space Race, a Cold War-era competition between the US and the Soviets to be the first nation to put a man on the moon.

For example, in 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, atop a threatening intercontinental ballistic missile. Meanwhile, the US’s plan to launch an “artificial moon” resulted in a massive explosion.

According to Alex Wallerstein, a nuclear technology historian, “Project A119  was one of several ideas that were floated for an exciting response to Sputnik… It is a pretty interesting window into the sort of American mindset at that time. This push to compete in a way that creates something very impressive. I think, in this case, impressive and horrifying are a bit too close to each other.”

Of course, Project A119 was abandoned, mainly out of fear that a failure to launch could result in the bomb dropping onto US soil. 

Carl Sagan’s Role in Disclosing Project A119

A government project with such an immense risk of harm to the American people would in any other circumstance be classified. And Project A119 only came to the public’s attention because of physicist Carl Sagan, who worked on the project, coming up with its nuclear concept.

When applying for a fellowship at UC Berkeley’s Miller Institute in 1959, Sagan revealed project details that, legally, he was not permitted to. After the scientist’s passing in 1996, his biographer Keay Davidson discovered his disclosure of the project.

Sagan’s boss on the project, physicist Leonard Reiffel wrote for Nature in 2000, “In my opinion, Sagan breached security in March, 1959, “In my opinion, Sagan breached security in March, 1959.”

MK-ULTRA: Not Every Ridiculous Notion Is a Conspiracy

Source: Natasha Connell via Unsplash

To the rational mind, the notion that the US military had intended to nuke the moon sounds like nothing but a harebrained conspiracy. However, it, along with other supposed conspiracies—especially those related to the Cold War—is completely true.

The MK-ULTRA project came in response to rumors that the Soviet Union had discovered a drug that would grant them the power of mind control. It involved the US government giving massive doses of LSD to unsuspecting “volunteers” in an effort to manipulate their minds.

Unfortunately, the doses were so massive that many of the unwilling participants were left with permanent brain damage. 

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