It’s no secret that over the years governments have been involved in some pretty harebrained schemes. There have been scams, invasions, secret wars, assassinations, and all manner of wacky shenanigans in the works. Some have come to fruition, while others never got beyond the planning stages. While there has been all sorts of madness, this may very well take the cake.
In the 1950s, during the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the United States government planned to blow up the moon using a nuclear bomb. Let that sink in for a moment. The government was going to use a nuke to explode the moon.
All of this was designed to show Russia just how damn mighty the US was. Nothing says power, nothing says, “We’re the biggest badass on the block,” quite like permanently altering the landscape of the heavens.
We’re not talking about one random dude having the bright idea to nuke the moon (that phrase really sounds like it should be a euphemism for something). This involved a lot of people, many agencies, and much research. Astronomer Carl Sagan, then a young grad student, even contributed calculations about how much dust and gas such an explosion would create.
Officially called “A Study of Lunar Research Flights,” and bearing the nickname “Project A119,” it should be obvious that this never happened. You probably guessed that because there is still a moon in the night sky. The plan was to launch a missile with a small nuclear device at the moon, where, after travelling 238,000 miles, it would impact the surface and detonate. It had to be an atom bomb, because a hydrogen bomb would have been far too heavy for such a launch.
In the end, “Project A119” was abandoned due to fears about what might happen to the population of Earth should something go wrong with the mission. That’s probably for the best, though it was definitely not the end of half-baked ideas. One other madcap plan involved contaminating the surface of the moon with radioactive material.