In the late 1950s, the United States was losing the space race. The U.S.S.R. put the first satellite in orbit and successfully completed the first manned space flight. The U.S. needed something to prove it could compete with the Soviet superpower.
So it decided to nuke the moon.
Project A119, also titled “A Study of Lunar Research Flights,” was actually a plan to detonate a nuclear warhead on the lunar surface. The U.S. officials behind the plan hoped it would scare the Soviets and enthuse the American people.
The impressive display was chosen because the nuclear flash would have been visible to everyone who could see the moon — all things considered, not the easiest way to get a world-wide audience. It wouldn’t have been a full hydrogen bomb, however. Although the hydrogen bomb was at that point the most powerful weapon in the U.S. arsenal (and hundreds…
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