Project A119: America’s Secret Plan to Nuke the Moon
The moon plays an integral part in how life on Earth works. And the moon landings consistently rank as some of the most important and iconic moments in human history. Why, then, in the 1950s, did the US Air Force want to blow it all to bits? why did America want to nuke the moon? It’s an eerie place, but also majestic and awe-inspiring. These unique, alien vistas, these ultra-mysterious landscapes, have captured the imaginations of millions of people for decades. And they’ve led us all to ponder some of life’s biggest questions. How does the solar system work? Could we ever live on the moon? And are we alone in the universe?
We’re talking Project A119. Strictly speaking, Project A119 could have only come across the desk at NASA in the very late 1950s, given that NASA itself wasn’t officially formed until 1958. It was predominantly planned and discussed by the Air Force, then, and also by the Armour Research Foundation (now known as the IIT Research Institute). Regardless of how late or early NASA may have known about it, though, this was one truly incredible plan, the impact of which really would have been… explosive. Project A119 also went by the slightly less Hollywood title; “A Study of Lunar Research Flights”. And that’s what it was primarily proposed to be, a study. It was originally scheduled to take place in 1959, but was cancelled, and the details didn’t become public knowledge until the late 1990s. Until then, it was top secret. And, even today, the American government hasn’t officially acknowledged that it was involved.
In simplest terms, the goal of Project A119 was to nuke the moon. To detonate a nuclear bomb on the surface of our closest natural satellite. And so, a small team was put together, with a number of notable members, including Gerard Kuiper (famed for the Kuiper Belt) and a young Carl Sagan. Ever since World War Two, humankind has lived with the threat of nuclear weapons. The damage they can do, the power they can bring, and the apocalypse that they could inspire. So, when in the 1950s the space race took global attention away from Earth and into the sky, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the world’s superpowers wanted to take their bombs with them. That both America and the Soviet Union were asking; how can we use our WMDs to gain an advantage?