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U.S. Had Plan To Nuke The Moon 461

Jeffy was one several people this weekend who writes: "According to this article, The U.S. planned on detonating a nuclear bomb on the moon in the fifties to 'one up' the USSR and sway public opinion on the States' military might. An interesting twist to the story is that Carl Sagan was hired to help do the math to make sure the explosion was big enough to see from earth." Well, this isn't really news for nerds, but the whole idea behind nuking the moon strikes me as such a sad commentary on the Cold War that I had to post. The thinking behind this was such a pissing match it astounds me -- but here it is.
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The US Had Plan To Nuke The Moon

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  • Well, we can see you would never make it in the nuclear arms business. In the day, Teller would have denounced you as a traitor for such soft-heartedness.

    No, what you want is to set off a bomb designed to release a big load of neutrons deep in a salt mine. That shoots into the atmosphere an enormous jet of vaporized radioactive sodium. Short half-life, high, high radiation level, plus, sodium being such an active ion the uptake in organisms is really really good. That'll teach those f*&^ing Roosians to f%$# with Hungary!

    Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!

    Yours WDK -

  • But what, really, was the government's motive for putting soldiers in a ditch only 1 or 2 miles (I think) from the impact? I imagine that almost all of these men must have eventually contracted radiation sickness, and this provides a good sample for the government's tests of the effect of radiation on humans.

    It isn't necessarily dangerous. A deep slit trench will protect you from prompt radiation, thermal and blast effects. Next step, be upwind or evacuate to avoid the fallout footprint. I've seen films of troops advancing to "ground zero" shortly after a test, that is really stupid.

  • The US, in fact, has occupied Mexico City and annexed much of Mexico, from Texas to California. At one time, the US had annexed Cuba and the Philippines, and occupied Nicaragua.

    I refer you to the Monroe Doctrine for a description of American policy regarding its sphere of influence.

  • by DG ( 989 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @05:51AM (#1072393) Homepage Journal
    I spent the latter part of the Cold War in the Army, and I distinctly remember expecting the balloon to go up sometime during my lifetime.

    And as an Armoured Recce guy, I had to memorize and _keep_ memorized Soviet ORBATS, tactics, and weapon/vehicle capabilities so that I'd recognise the bad guys when they came calling.

    But a couple of years ago, after the Wall fell, I had an opportunity to meet one of my counterparts from the Red Army, and we got to talking about "old times". And what he told me was that they were all waiting for NATO to invade _them_!

    And he managed to give great examples of our "threatening stance"

    A minor lesson in tactics - the nature of modern armoured warfare is that it is impossible to contain a localized bit of ground. The enemy can concentrate his forces and always overwhelm localized defenders. If you share a border with a bad guy, and you each have 1000 tanks, then placing your tanks at equal intervals along the border will do nothing when the enemy throws all 1000 tanks at one spot.

    Accordingly, the way you defend against armoured units is to place lightweight screening units up front, and have progressively larger and heavier units staged behind them. The screening units make contact, and report back to the heavy units, who then determine where the attackers are going and counterattack in mass.

    It's called "defense in depth". To defend against Divisional-level assaults requeres about 100km of depth.

    However, the West German wasn't too keen on the idea of the first 100km of their country being given up by default and used as a battlefield. They wanted the invaders stopped at the border.

    Well, NATO knew that this just wasn't going to happen, but political expediancy required them to come up with a solution. And the solution they came up with was that as soon as the balloon went up, they would _immediately_ invade East Germany and attempt to penetrate 100 km in and set up the defensive screen. Tactical nukes would be used to blunt any thrusts pushing into West Germany, and the units pushing into East Germany would be used to cut off the attackers.

    What this looks like on the ground are large mobile units massed close to the border - exactly what an invasion force would look like. Because it _was_ an invasion force.

    Now the Soviets had more experience with large-scale armoured combat than anyone. They KNOW what is required to defend against armour. And every time NATO would tell them "we're just going to defend ourselves against agression" the Soviet generals would look at the troop distributions in West Germany and go "We know what defenses look like, and those are NOT defensive formations" - and they'd go make another 10000 tanks.

    The two of us discussed this for quite some time, and when we finally understood each other, we had a good laugh over it all.

    That's not to say that the Soviets weren't very interested in promoting Communism - they were, and they persued that agressively. But they never seriously considered Napoleanesque annexation by force of the whole of Europe like we feared.

  • So when did the United States occupy Canda and Mexico?

    Oh right...they didn't. But the Soviet Union did occupy Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia as well as annex Georgia, the Ukraine, Moldova and a host of other nations while it strove to make sure it's neighnours behaved. Didn't the Soviet Union occupy both Hungary and Chechzlovakia?

    US Doctrine at the time was "Containment" originally that was supposed to be economic...but it was twisted around to become military. So we had the war in Vietnam...and we supported the Afgans so that Pakistain wouldn't be the next "domino" to fall. And we had that little invasion of Granada too. the United States didn't follow the same doctrine as the Soviet Union did...or China is trying to do now with it's...we *have* to take Taiwan back stance.
  • While the flash might have been big and bright enough to be seen from Earth, would there have really been a mushroom cloud? Isn't the shape of a mushroom cloud dependant on atmosphere and convection?
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday May 15, 2000 @05:26AM (#1072403) Homepage Journal
    First, rockets back then were *gasp*! less reliable than they are now. A fault on launch, with a bomb capable of an explosion that could have been seen a few =million= miles away would have turned more than the launch-pad into toast.

    Second, picture this. The Russians discover that a quadrillion-tonne nuclear warhead has been fitted to a rocket. Their spy-planes discover that the rocket is on the launch pad, target unknown. The Russians have a total xenophobia of America (and likewise in reverse). The Russians are aware of American military leaders advising an attack on Russia, before Russia got too big. The only weapons you have, capable of stopping an attack by America on Russia are nuclear missiles. If you were in the Russian's shoes, what would YOU do?

    The Americans miscalculate the position of the moon, and the rocket goes into a free return path. Space debris, radiation and other nasties, by this time, have destroyed any self-destruct system. (Assuming any was installed. This WAS early on, remember!) The rocket detonates on impact with Earth, wiping out whatever continent it strikes. Because of a total clamp-down on any information regarding the missile, surviving nations declare all-out world war, using whatever conventional and nuclear weapons that existed. Life on Earth is obliterated. For ever.

    Another possibility. Terrorists capture the warhead, and threaten to detonate it. Because of the secrecy involved, the security forces involved in negotiation and/or attack are NOT advised that the warhead is nuclear, OR of the capability of the warhead. The forces storm the terrorists, who detonate the bomb. The world dies in unspeakable agony. The End.

    The size of the warhead is miscalculated. The missile strikes a fissure in the moon. (The moon cooled VERY quickly, when it formed, maybe in less than a year. That's going to make for very low-grade rock.) The moon is literally blown apart. Earth is struck by massive rocks, wiping out half the population. The loss of the moon destabilises the Earth, which wobbles wildly. Seasons cease to exist, and all life dies in a catastrophic ice-age.

    The Americans succeed in hitting the moon. The moon survives. The Russians (who, at that time, had vastly superior space technology) launch an even bigger rocket and an even bigger nuclear warhead into space. Repeat all of the above.

    The Russians and Americans get into a huge space-based arms race, contaminating all solid planets in the solar system with a thick layer of uranium 235 and plutonium. Space science is set back a hundred years, due to radiation affecting radio astronomy, planetary destruction rendering space probes useless, and the impossibility of ever landing humans on any other world. Humanity is confined to Earth and dies of stagnation and/or over-population and/or exhaustion of resources.

    In the end, humanity has only reached the year 2000 because of the FAILURE of projects like this.

  • And these guys figuring out the yield of a nuke have been doing it pretty accurately ever since Trinity.

    Apart from that whole sordid Ivy Mike affair...

  • I think you missed Vonnegut's point in that quote; he didn't say "Hiroshima" but "Nagasaki". Hiroshima would have been enough to secure a surrender - the lesser-evil-than-conventional-warfare argument might wash there, if it can at all. The war was effectively over after the first bomb, ergo Nagasaki was a weapons test (designed to test a different bomb but especially the different terrain). And that's obscene.

  • I never heard of the Russian project, which is hardly a big surprise considering the top secret Soviet culture, but if I remember right the USAEC version of this was called "Project Plowshare." There was a scheme to dig a second cross-isthmian canal in Nicaragua which would have required about sixty nuclear explosions. God DAMN technologists sure are stupid; give them the plans for a great big bomb and the first and last thing they "think" is "Woweee, where can we set this thing off!"

    Yours WDK -

  • ..or actually, human response to what is obviously a random mutation in the genome that occasionally causes death. we treat it like a plague, when in fact if we ever wipe out this "disease" evolution will cease. commence flaming
    GCS d-(--) s+: a-- C+++$>++++$$ UL++$>++++$$ P+>++++$ L++>++++$ E--- W++$>++
  • Given the choise between living in USA or SSSR, I'd pick USA without second thought. Given the choise between living next to USA or SSSR, it would no longer be so obvious. (oops I *do* live next to the former Soviet union)

    No, USA did not invade Canada or Mex,... oops, well not since 1846, anyway ;-)
    However USA had (has) a number of puppet states in latin america. Only in Cuba and Granada did it go as far as invasion (and only in Granada did it succeed), but CIA has been more than willing to help a pro-US dictator against a less pro-US anyone.

    I agree that SSSR enforced it's buffert zone in a much more brutal way. Sadly that does not mean that the US has a clean conscience. You can't become (and stay) a superpower just by being nice.

  • They used to blow mountains and dig whole lakes with nukes. I remember seeing a report on this a while ago. Great stuff, really nice lakes ... too bad they're so radioactive that everybody's dying of cancer in the surrounding villages ... LOL
  • by Tim C ( 15259 )
    if they blew up big nukes, well they could potentially (without much difficulty since themoon is quite a bit smaller than the earth) blow it up entirely.

    Woah there, time for a reality check I think!

    Yes, the moon is quite a bit smaller than the Earth. I forget how much smaller, but the gravitiatioanl force is roughly a sixth, so that'll give you some idea (gravitational force depends upon mass/(square of radius), don't forget, so it's not as easy as being a sixth the mass)

    But blow it up entirely? We are still talking about billions upon billions of tons of rock; I personally doubt that we'd be able to blow up an average-sized asteroid if ever we needed to (a la "Armagedon")


  • I guess this is really more of a reply to H's comments on the story, rather than the story itself, but is it really such a sad commentary? I mean, I'm much more comfortable with the idea that the government would detonate a nuclear weapon on the moon to scare the USSR than I am with them detonating them on earth. I guess I just make certain assumptions about the early cold war mindset that let me excuse "pissing matches," to a certain extent.
  • It's amazing how far society has come in the last century... and yet how much everything has remained the same...

    If the same thing were planned today, there would be tons of protests... back then it would have probably been "Yay for us!"...

    And you know, if they had nuked the moon, that would've been when they discovered afterward that it had amazing resources or a hidden ancient technology... at least that's what would've happened on the "Outer Limits"... ;)
  • I'm not a pdoc, but I'd say deprakote for a mood stabilizer, paxil for the schitzoeffective disorder, and possibly some mild sedative to handle anything the other two can't.

    Oh, and hospitalization for several years at least.

  • I guess I should have said...the CIA was involved...but the CIA often does not represent the United States.

    Had US Marines stepped foot on Cuba in '61...then the United States would have been involved
  • by guran ( 98325 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @06:26AM (#1072445)
    You think all those heroic soldiers got together and said "Hey! I bet we could storm that beach in Normandy!"?

    Of course!

    That was called "Open Force Warfare"
    "Better Battles Trough Peer Review"

    It was generally percieved as a better alternative to "Closed Force"

    Actually that is why the military (MilitSoft) was split up into separate branches (Army, Navy, etc) by the Justice Department.

  • I've also heard the theory that the Moon attracts projectiles that would otherwise hit the Earth. Therefore, our satellite may have prevented major catastrophes which could have retarded the development of life.

  • by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai&gmail,com> on Monday May 15, 2000 @05:58AM (#1072448) Homepage

    Nuking the moon is a poor idea. To make much more than a single, bright flash, it would have to be "dirty", ie, a surface impact. The some of ejecta would head to earth as satellite killers.

    I might point out that they didn't have that many sattelites in the fact I think they had a total or sometimes one?

    The Second Amendment Sisters []
  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @06:27AM (#1072449)

    In the 1840s.

    We are not talking about Imperialism or Manifest-Destiny in the 19th century. We are talking about Soviet-era expansionism and Cold War upsmanship.

    The US also occupied and ruled Haiti. The United States annexed Puetro Rico, Cuba and the Philippines after the Spanish-American war. Cuba was spun off in...1899 and the Phillipines in 1948.
  • Reminds me of a GI Joe cartoon I saw when I was younger where there was aplot to carve the face of Cobra Commander on the moon but QuickKick carved a smiley face instead...

    Anyone else remember that one?
  • The United States succesfully invaded Cuba in 1898.

    The United States didn't attempt to invade Cuba in the 1960s...Cuban Nationalists did with some support from the CIA...but Kennedy didn't give them US military the invasion failed.

    You are right on about the becoming a superpower by being a nice guy all of the time.
  • by MrP- ( 45616 )
    next time remove the
    part, if you enable 1-click shopping, and someone goes to a url with your id, he can buy books under your account, sure the books will be shipped to you and not him, but it would be annoying to return lots of books you didnt order =)

    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • "If the same thing were planned today, there would be tons of protests... back then it would have probably been "Yay for us!"..."

    I think that back then, the general public felt the government was noble and honorable and would do no wrong. Today, I think we know better. How would you feel about your government blowing up atom bombs on the moon after they killed 4 students at Kent State.

    Bad Mojo []
  • "Um, once someone has orbit superiority, they can blow up any of our air planes. Then they have air superiority and they can blow up any of our ground troops. Then they have ground superiority and they won. Why do you think the US works so hard to obtain air superiority in modern warfare? It is the KEY to ground superiority."

    It's not.

    The problem with air superiority is that it cannot translate into ground superiority for the very reason that you cannot monitor everything that's going on on the ground when you're a thousand feet up going 500 miles per hour.

    Even in Desert Storm, we still had to land a million people over seas in order to establish ground superiority.

    The best air superiority will buy you is an edge. That is, it will help you with recon, and it will help you harass the hell out of supply lines. But true ground superiority can only be achieved by putting grunts on the ground. And to win a ground war, you have to fight a ground war.
  • Once Stalin had secured his rule within the USSR, he began efforts to destabilize countries across the globe,[...]From 1945, US policy was containment, preventing the spread of Communism and Russian/Soviet influence.

    Well an important tool in that containment policy was (is) to destabilize countries around the globe if the "wrong" people rise to power.

    About the quest for domination: Nobody can stay in power for a very long time without some popular support. The communist party had two major points to make in the propaganda.
    1) Remember how bad things were under the tsar
    2) We will make sure that the next war will *never* be fought on the rodina

    The first point became harder and harder to press as time went by. The second was a real killer. You can take a whole lot of oppression from your government, if you truly believe that foreign troops are a likely alternative. The cold war therefore suited the bolsjeviks like a glove. They had a mighty enemy against which thay could unite the people. (In the US, McCarthy played the same game)

    BUT those arguments could never work on an international scale. Outside Russia, kremlin domination could only be achieved by power. Maintaining an empire, based only on military power is an impossible task in the long run. The Soviet leaders must have realized that.

  • I guess I should have said...the CIA was involved...but the CIA often does not represent the United States.

    Well,... who *do* they represent? If there had been a military coup here, supported by the GRU I would have blamed it on the SSSR, wether or not it had Leonid Brezjnev's personal approval.

  • It's receding at something like 1/4 inch per year, I think. Not exactly something anyone will have to worry about any time soon.

    And suppose we *did* have the ability to drag a moon from another planet and affix it in orbit... wouldn't it be much easier to simply repair the orbit of the one we already *have*?
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday May 15, 2000 @05:33AM (#1072481) Homepage Journal
    If humanity had spent the time after the First World War improving the lives of Germans, rather than force them deeper into debt and depression, there might never have been a Hitler.

    If Germans had been encouraged to be feeling and caring, rather than brutal and cold to their children, the Kaiser might never have risen to power, and Hitler might never have become a sadistic mass-murderer, hell-bent on getting revenge.

    All in all, there WERE plenty of ways that humanity COULD have stopped World War 2, and even World War 1. Humanity chose paranoia, domination and abusive punishment, instead. It got the only reward that was possible.

    Before people look to violence and arms to resolve their differences, they need to look to themselves to see why the differences even exist. Violence is not only the last resort of the incompetent, it's also the first. If war is the price of incompetency, may whatever God that exists PLEASE make humanity competent. Now.

  • "The problem with air superiority is that it cannot translate into ground superiority for the very reason that you cannot monitor everything that's going on on the ground when you're a thousand feet up going 500 miles per hour."

    Yes, we can. We have orbital superiority right now. Our spy satellites and communications satellites allow us to watch the ground and know what's going on. Our AWACs and other air based tactical planes allow the same capability.

    The point is that when a ground unit moves in against another ground unit, the ground unit with air support wins. Especially if the other ground units air support was totally vanquished earlier in the conflict.

    Bad Mojo []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, 2000 @06:36AM (#1072501)
    Boy, I'm glad that guy wasn't in charge. The moon pulls on more than just the tides and the axis. It also keeps the inside earth's core churning and thermodynamically active. "Our little generator" What's so special about that? Well the core is also rotating independently of the earth. That why the Magnetic north is drifting westward 1 degree every 200 years. It keeps the magnetic field strong and healthy. That's pretty much why we have a stable atmosphere. The magnetic field keeps the earth atmosphere shielded from the blowing off into space from the relentless blast of solar winds. Some physicists believe that Mars used once have a strong magnetic field and a denser atmosphere. Since it cooled internally the magnetic filed died off and the atmosphere and water blew off into space. So they believe the constant tug on earth from the moon will keep the magnetic field strong for a longer period of time than without it. It is theorized that the earth would have prematurely cooled off a long time ago without it. Just in that this is true I'd like to keep it around a while if you don't mind.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday May 15, 2000 @06:36AM (#1072505) Homepage Journal
    Hitler may have been Austrian, but he was raised in a classic German atmosphere.

    All leaders rise to power, EVEN those "born to it". Any hereditary ruler can find themselves out of power, any time the "ruled" choose. If you read English history, you might want to take a squint at King John (who tried to supplant his brother as King, several times, and who faced all-out rebellion by both peasents AND nobles).

    Hitler didn't "just need to be hugged". That's a pathetic attempt to twist some well-known history. Hitler was beaten regularly by his Jewish father. Not for any particular reason, just because his father believed kids should be beaten. (I wonder why Hitler hated Jews so much... Couldn't be any connection, could there?)

    Then, Hitler fought in Wold War 1. Suffered horribly, there, like many Europeans. Americans have no concept of how destructive that war was for Europe. EVERY family lost at least one son to that war. More often than not, all of them. The death-toll for EACH SIDE at the Battle of the Somme, over a period of a few days, exceeded the entire death toll on ALL SIDES COMBINED through the ENTIRE Vietnam War.

    Poison gas, generals as keen on shooting their own men as they were the "enemy", nobody knowing who was fighting or for what, the firing squad at even the slightest excuse (or none at all, if the general decided that the troops needed encouragement), shell-shock was rife, bayonet charges through barbed-wire fences, in mindless attacks on heavily-fortified machine-gun positions...

    And after the war, Germany was stripped of much of it's land. the Treaty of Versaies was punative more than anything. With no money, virtually no men (most died in the war), minimal industry, senseless deprivaion by the ruling elite in Germany, morale didn't just hit rock-bottom, it went through the floor, out the other side, and was living in Hell.

    Under those conditions, Hitler (suffering from many ailments, both physical and mental) offered a way out from this living death, the only way he knew how. Through power and terror. Just like his father, and just as he'd seen in the war. The examples set were all ones of might making right, and fear & terror were the ways to discipline and maintain "order".

    That's not the mark of someone who is evil. That is the mark of a seriously sick mind, that badly needs a LOT of treatment. Maybe, by the time anyone realised Hitler -was- that sick, it was too late to do anything, given the lack of understanding back then.

    However, that is not the issue. The issue is that monsterous actions come from sick people, who get sick from the mix of fear, hate and violence. The whole of both World Wars, the Cold War, and the strife in the Middle East exist because people still brew that evil mixture.

    IMHO, there's a simple enough way out. Don't Mix Them. If the USA had done that from the get-go, there would have BEEN no Cold War. No Korean War. No Vietnam War. And the former USSR would have had no control over any of them.

    By now, we'd have Orion rockets commuting between here and Alpha Centauri. We'd have a space program to be proud of, not this debris.

  • by TuRRIcaNEd ( 115141 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @06:07AM (#1072509)
    Does it bother anybody else that the only source given for this "story" is one web page called ""? Hello? Fact-checking, anyone?

    Here's [] a source from The Observer, a fairly reputable UK Sunday newspaper. It's not a good idea to discriminate on the basis of a domain name. Obviously if there's nothing else to go on, then you may be suspicious, but as a rule, that kind of discrimination just makes you sound like Eric Cartman ("It must be written by hippies, and hippies suck!).

  • live by the sword, die by the sword. []

    War is scary business, also pretty lucrative if you're in the right one.

  • It's quite clear that at least one man realized that Hitler was that "sick" and certainly that dangerous.

    He sounded the alarm loudly, but was ignored for several more years until it became painfully obvious that he had been right after all, but it was by that time too late to do any of the things he had advocated a few years before to head off the crisis.

    His name was Winston Spencer Churchill, and the story of the very clearcut signs leading up to the Second World War are told in his book "The Gathering Storm", the first volume of a six-volume set on the history of the Second World War written by an excellent historian with a unique vantage point. (He won the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature partly for this work.)

    Required reading, but fair warning to the leftists out there: you'll agree with Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher when you're done. Of course, that would in turn indicate that you've raised your IQ signifcantly... [grin] Seriously - this is a great history from a great vantage point of the most influential event of the 20th century. Read it.
  • Yes, we can. We have orbital superiority right now. Our spy satellites and communications satellites allow us to watch the ground and know what's going on. Our AWACs and other air based tactical planes allow the same capability.

    And they do such a wonderful job finding all those camaflauged tanks in Iraq and drug farms in Columbia.

    Sorry, but a determined enemey can screw with aerial recon by covering up stuff they don't want us to see, and making us see more things by using cardboard cutouts. It isn't rocket science to create 10,000 tank cutouts (for example) and place them in one location, while covering the real 10,000 tank invasion force with netting. And it has been done--if you follow Desert Storm, one of the problems we were having is in getting a relatively accurate picture of what the hell is going on in Iraq.

    The point is that when a ground unit moves in against another ground unit, the ground unit with air support wins.

    I said that in my original post--that air support gives you an edge. But you still have to put ground pounders on the ground if you want to establish ground superiority. You cannot win a ground war with airplanes alone--and that was always my point.
  • No matter what justifications you or the government can pull out, the fact of the matter is that the people deserve better than having their "leaders" plotting on how to control them in case of some ridiculous possibility.

    Remember, the same martial law that is supposedly meant to be used in case of a flood or y2k, can be used when people start to wake up to all the crap that our government is doing for the sake of corporate powers.

    Ever question why small towns across america are getting military-grade vehicles and equipment? Does the government have the right to use our money to devise stronger and stronger ways to control us?

    Michael Chisari
  • If one had to demonstrate the ability to detonate such a weapon, I can't think of a safer place to do it. Considering that the old Soviet Union was aggressively expansionist in nature, such a deterrance was potentially a useful thing.

    "When I'm singing a ballad and a pair of underwear lands on my head, I hate that. It really kills the mood."

  • The bomb would have been at least as large as the one used on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
    I am a skeptical that 1950's-era boosters could reliably lift this much weight to the moon.

    Weren't the pictures of H-bombs destroying small islands enough?

  • No way.
    The moon may be small, but it's not THAT small.. it's still REALLY GODDAMN MASSIVE.
  • First of all, looking back on it nuking the moon seems really dumb.

    However, "pissing match" is exactly what it was--and what it was intended to be. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that von Neumann was behind this idea (or at least supported it).

    Military strategy since the mid-to-late 1940's has been less about "how many guns do we have" and more about "what moves can we make to force the opponents hand into playing to our strengths". In other words, game theory.

    And game theory has a lot to say about bluffing's direct effects (like nuking the moon making the enemy think you are more powerful) or indirect effects (nuking the moon makes the [1950's] citizens more confident which in turn makes the enemy citizens less confidant, providing a nice vicious cycle).

    In any case, there were probably some scientific benefits to doing this as well. Selenological research, ballistic stuff, maybe some astronomy, etc.
    Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?
  • by seizer ( 16950 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @04:46AM (#1072539) Homepage
    US provisional Budget circa 1950:

    Option 1:
    • Cure world hunger
    • Cure world disease
    • Make the world a paradise on earth
    • Become heroes in the eyes of the world as a result

    Option 2: Nuke the moon!!!

    Such an easy decision.

    --Remove SPAM from my address to mail me
  • Weren't some of those generals also Russian/Soviet?

    Get off your high horse, yank - thanks for the help and all but the Brits and the Commonwealth (Canada, India, Aus etc)and the various undergrounds could still have won, it just would have taken a little longer (ok, a lot longer). Dieppe and Normandy aside, the Russians/Soviets did a lot more to defeat the Axis (manpower wise).

    This whole "American Cavalry" riding in to save Europe at the last minute is BS. A lot of other countries did a lot of fighting long before anyone even heard of Pearl Harbour.

    Haven't heard of the raid on Dieppe? Look it up sometime and see what 5000 Canadians did to win the war. Pay close attention to how the US reported it as a great American victory when there were only 150 US Army Rangers there (BTW, it wasn't a "victory" in any sense of the word). Look for references to the South Saskatchewan Rifles.

    My Grandfather was at war fighting while yours was making big bucks off selling us the ammo.

  • I don't recall those countries becoming part of the Soviet Union. Maybe I'm missing something. The fact that they were allies with Russia, got support from them, and shared an economic and gov. system in common doesn't make them expressions of Soviet Imperialism. If that were true, the US would be much more guilty of conquest for it's forays into South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe etc.
    Israel? Germany? Japan? Hong Kong? Taiwan? South Korea? etc etc.
  • Warning! Warning Will Robinson, the Bogosity meter has pegged!
    "The Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large" . . . "if the bomb exploded on the edge of the moon, the mushroom cloud would be illuminated by the sun"

    You need two things in order to get a mushroom cloud: an atmosphere and gravity. Mushroom clouds are driven by convection. Hot gas is more bouyant than the surrounding atmosphere and it rises.

    Hot gas near the lunar surface would simply expand outwards radially into the surrouding vacuum. Sorry guys, no mushroom cloud. :)

    This book [] ought to be required reading for everyone who comes to Slashdot. "Hot Air Rises and Heat Sinks: Everything You Know about Cooling Electronics is Wrong" is funny as hell. It also explains thermodynamics in understandable language and dispells plenty of awful thermo superstitions.

  • I'd have no problem with that...plutonium puts out mostly alpha radiation. Pick it up with your hands --- the first layer of skin (which is dead anyway) will block it. I'd be reluctant to put all the pieces in one bucket, however. (Say, did anyone else just see a blue flash?)
  • I wonder how this nuke would be differenjt without gravity?

  • "...and haters of Christianity to establish the "New World Order" that plays into the hands of the Antichrist."


    That's very good. Now, let's put your jacket back on. Yes, the one with the extra long arms you love so much.

    Pssst. By the way, I think you're on the wrong website. Try here []. :>

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • Ever heard of the Resistance? They did quite well in France and especially in Italy (where they caught and hung Mussilini before any "regualar" army got there).

    You'd be surprised what some "ordinary" European citizens did without some "general" telling them what to do.
  • One common misconception I see being repeated in this thread is that a nuke can go off without explictly being triggered

    A nuke requires a precise detonation sequence of the shaped charges to bring the core into a supercritical gemometry withing the few milliseconds you have before it vaporizes itself. Miss the mark, and you "just" have plutonium chunks scattered around.

    This is what cracks me up about so many movies and TV shows: they have the guys trying to disarm the nuke that's about to go off; in reality they'd just slap a shaped charge on the side of the device,throw a Kevlar blanket over the device, and PAFF! scratch one nuke. Cleanup, isle 6.
  • To all of the non-Americans out there.

    I would like to personally apologize on this guy's behalf. Please please please understand that this, contrary to popular belief, is not the typical viewpoint shared by the average American. Most of us are absolutely nothing like this.

    Once again, please don't let a few bad apples spoil your view on our country. Really, America is pretty damned nice if you learn to deal with the occasional nutball.

    (just when we start to get halfway decent PR for something, someone has to go and make a damned Joseph McCarthy out of himself)

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • Around January of 1958, the Soviet had plans for "conquering the Moon." It was called the E-3 project []. The primary aim of the project was to prove to the whole world that a Soviet spacecraft had really reached the surface of the Moon. The spacecraft would in itself be quite small and its flight to the moon would not be possible to observe for any astronomer on earth. Even if filled with conventional explosives, its drop on to the lunar surface would not be possible to observe from Earth. But, if a nuclear device was exploded on the Moon's surface, the whole world would be able to observe the event and nobody would be able to pose the question: has a Soviet spacecraft really reached the Moon? It was assumed that a nuclear explosion on the Moon would be accompanied by such a light flash that it would easily be observable by all observatories on Earth.


  • This is mentioned in this biography of Sagan. He was working for the RAND Corporation at the time. RAND (Research and Development) was a military think tank. This was a period when the only way to get research money was from the government/military, and besides it was your patriotic duty.

    However, Sagan began to disagree with the military during the '60's with the whole Vietnam thing, and he stopped working for them. (Although I believe the book said he still had some ties to RAND...)

    I think everyone should read the book, even if you're not a fan of Carl Sagan.

  • by getha ( 97821 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @06:19AM (#1072594)
    The thing you're forgetting is that all knowledge about effects of nuclear explosions on health and the environment were discovered by trial and error. In other words: experiments were carried out and effects were recorded and analyzed. And human test-subjects were used, too! Not always with the subjects knowing it. And no, I'm not just talking about the big, bad, ugly soviets. The US military were brilliant when it came to testing new weapons... (see their idea to use drugs as weapons)

    Which is of course also the reason that these civil engineers could propose these kind of things: most (if not all) of the results were classified. So generally people only knew it was dangerous, but they had no idea how dangerous or long-lasting the effects were.

    And then of course: the people suggesting these things probably knew absolutely nothing about nuclear physics. These guys were most probably civil engineers or maybe just politicians.

    xchg .,@
  • by sstrick ( 137546 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @04:49AM (#1072595)
    It is a sad state of affairs to detonate a weapon on a pristine planet just to prove a point. However I do think it is better then some other explosions that have taken place.

    For example I prefer this to the French alternative of the South Pacific. They don't even have the excuse of the cold war anymore to hide behind anymore.
  • ---
    So, although the sun produces radiations, it is natural. not man made.

    So? What does 'man-made' versus 'natural' have to do with anything? I guarantee you that you won't die any differently if you stand on the surface of the sun as you would if you stood in a nuclear blast. Natural? Man-made? It's all trivial, you're dead either way.

    Question Authority

    Question the health food industry that has spent millions trying to convince people that natural is somehow inherantly safer/healthier than man-made.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • Rejewski from Poland taught the British how to crack the Enigma. The British expanded on it. He built and nammed the first 'bombe' used in decyphering the Enigma.

  • Similar plan was developed by the Dept. of Transportation to clear a mountian and make way for a freeway in California during the '50s.

    Didn't pan out, but this was all part of the "Atoms for Peace" program of the Eisenhower administration. The long-term environmental effects of nukes were unknown, and the thinking of the day was they could be useful tools in large scale mining/earthworks projects.

  • No, no bad idea.
    Did you never see Space: 1999

  • Nuking the moon is a poor idea. To make much more than a single, bright flash, it would have to be "dirty", ie, a surface impact. The some of ejecta would head to earth as satellite killers.

    Furthermore, even a big heavy 50 MT fission-fusion-fission warhead is only 2e14 Joules, about the same as a 2000 tonne meteor (35 ft diameter) moving at 15 km/s.
  • The United States has used the Atom Bomb once on Hiroshima and most do not agree that It should have been used.


    The reason why we nuked two towns in Japan (you forgot Nagasaki) is for two reasons: one, to demonstrate a new technology to the emerior of Japan to convince him to finally surrender. Two, while the number of lives lost in Heroshima and Nagasaki was astronomical, the projected loss of life from a Japanese invasion (which was our only other alternative) was projected to be between 5 and 10 times larger.

    Actually, Einstein first proposed that instead of either invading or nuking Japan, we should instead invite observers from Japan to witness a nuclear warhead being ignited in the Navada desert. Nuking the moon is a safer alternative to nuking Navada--less environmentally destructive, and less threat of a bunch of small towns being exposed to fallout.

    When put into perspective that way, it actually makes some degree of sense.

    If an entire Nation goes bonkers over a 6 year old Cuban Boy who is taken from his home by a Government acting against the public opinion.

    Actually, we didn't invade Cuba to grab that boy. Or are you refering to taking him from his grandparents to reunite him with his father, in accord to court rulings which the grandparents where ignoring in violation of US law? Sometimes things aren't as cut and dry as the public relations people would have you think, you know.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 15, 2000 @07:40AM (#1072617)
    What sort of obscenity did Mr. Vonnegut find less appealing? The continuation of the firebombing of numerous Japanese cities on a daily basis, with as many as 500 B-29s per raid, and deaths per raid as high as 100,000? (In one example: a single raid of conventional bombing resulted in the total devastation of five square miles of a city then, 36 hours later, another raid obliterated 13 square miles more) Or a single, hideous, nuclear weapon that killed 150,000 to 200,000 in one blow? Or perhaps the lives of tens of thousands, the prospect of hundreds of thousands of American casualties in a projected land-invasion of the Japanese homeland?

    The Japanes governement was absolutely committed to defending their homeland to the last man, woman, and child, to go out with a blaze of glory, making the Allies pay with blood the price for every sqaure inch of Japanese soil. They were in the process of equipping every able-bodied citizen with everthing from an awl to a pitchfork, and indoctrinating the public on the need for resistance to the death.

    These facts are borne out in the Japanese government's public statements as well as in their most secret coded transmissions, the code of which the Allied had cracked years before.

    The US learned some terrible lessons in Okinawa, the predecessor to an invasdion of the Homeland: I believe US losses topped 10,000, Japanese forces lost 100,000, and it was estimated that one-third of the civilian population was killed. The Japanese themselves knew the war was lost (as per an internal study commisioned in late '43 or '44) but there was no corresponding easing of their resolve. Indeed, in the three weeks after Harry Truman assumed the Presidency, there were more US casualties in the Pacific than in the previous 3 years of combat, total!

    There's so much more to say, but time won't permit. I haven't even touched upon the inhuman treatment Allied POWs suffered at the hands of their Japanese captors, from the Bataan death march to beheadings, and the hatred many American's fealt towards the Japanese aggressors responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Allied soldiers, among them American fathers, sons, and brothers.

    ANY reading of the history of this period will not make one feel better about the use of Fat Man and Little Boy, but it will convince the reader that the nuclear solution was the least obscene of the variety of obscene possibilities dictated by the circumstances of the war.
  • I guess we can conclude that living next door to the strongest guy on the block is, at best, a mixed blessing.

    I'm Swedish. Here the Russians has been "the big threat" since long before Lenin (or Marx, or Washington) was born. On the other hand we have done our share of invading *them* as well...

    Regarding Cuba: I guess a lot of cubans failed to appriciate the distinction between "Cuban Nationalists[...]with some support from the CIA" and the United States. It was non like Batista was a nice guy either,...

  • Besides this moon nuking. Hmmm! Maybe the Area 51 stuff is real :O.

  • I mean no disrespect but what you or your friend in the former Soviet army believed, thought, were told to believe or think, or were told the top brass was thinking had little to do with what they were actually thinking. The only thing that got out, of course, was what they wanted you to believe.

    The Soviets would have indulged in a Napoleanesque annexation of the whole of Europe just as much as the NATO would have of Russia if they believed it would have been as easy as a Napoleonesque annexation. What kept each side from doing it was the deterrence and the threat of resistance on each side. While it caused a lot of fear on each side and still worries me what would happen if any of it fell into the wrong hands or if the hands it is in got deranged for any reason, ultimately it is the massive arsenal of weaponry on either side that eventually saved the world.

    This is all IMHO, of course.
  • by Tony Hammitt ( 73675 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @04:51AM (#1072637)
    I'm not kidding with the following:

    I was at Iowa State University in the past. There is a nutty math professor who wants to blow up the moon. He believed that the moon being absent would turn Earth into paradise. The name began with an A, I think. I don't really remember.

    We all had lots of fun when his plan made the cover of the Weekly World News....

    Monday.. Work.. Ick.. Later.
  • by PD ( 9577 )
    It's a good thing they didn't nuke the moon. They might have turned it into a wasteland where you would always need a protective suit to survive.
  • So the US had its expansionist period in the first 100 years of its existence, while the USSR built its buffer area within the first 35 years of its existence - after having been invaded twice (the Allied force which fought on behalf of the Whites during the Russian Civil War being the first, then Germany.)

    The Monroe doctrine remains a principle of US foreign policy: witness our Latin America policies in Colombia, Central America, and Cuba. Otherwise, US foreign policy is largely dictated by our ability to have access to foreign resources and markets; thus, since the US has effectively secured the Western Hemisphere, simple brute expansionism isn't necessary, which enables you to ape a moral high-ground now.

    The essential point is that Soviet expansionism was fundementally motivated by fear of invasion and attack - a fear founded in the very real history of the USSR and its relationship with the west from its very inception, not by simple megalomania.

  • You could take two approaches to this:

    1) Against - After trashing most of our own planet, we consider the ruining of another body in the solar system. Environmentalism gets a slightly bigger scope to it.

    2) For - The Moon, not capable of sustaining life (as it is at the moment), could be used as a vast testing ground. We could do a variety of really nasty tests that we don't want to do on earth, so we don't kill everyone here.

    Neither option is particularly nice really, but there will be those people that say it will be necessary to perform the act(s) in the name of 'progress'. I just find it sad statement on the human race that we need Nuclear Weaponry at all.


  • I think they'd be more interested in viewing the flash and resulting dust cloud, not the mushroom cloud.

  • What if, the Americans did do this.

    The Soviets would think, I'll go one up better, and detonate a nuke in the center of the sun, and turn day into night...


  • Somebody tell me, whatever happened to people's inherent need to question authority? Has social engineering become so powerful that we all feel that sitting back and accepting the actions of those in power, no matter how ridiculous, destructive or violent, is all we can do?

    Somehow I hope that there is more to life than passivity and apathy.

    Michael Chisari
  • Good point, Mr.P. Fortunately the qid=.... part of the link above is just a generic non-logged-in account.

    From now on, I promise to only post links to using Kurt the Pope's id number. That way he'll get lots of nifty new books.

  • Yes, that's true.. but would you really want even a few grams of plutonium scattered on your lawn?

    FYI: In the movie "The Peacemaker" a nuclear bomb is "disarmed" by removing one of the shaped charges. (Ends with a big bang.. but no nuclear detonation) Just wanted to point out that "some" hollywood movies have things right... kind of.
  • "One problem with aliens invading us is that never has air superiority ever translated to ground superiority--which means they eventually have to land on the ground."

    Um, once someone has orbit superiority, they can blow up any of our air planes. Then they have air superiority and they can blow up any of our ground troops. Then they have ground superiority and they won. Why do you think the US works so hard to obtain air superiority in modern warfare? It is the KEY to ground superiority.

    Bad Mojo []
  • Wow! Get rid of Police departments. They're a way for the government to control us. Don't let them have bullet-proof vests and pepper spary, they are just "stronger ways to control us"!
  • by aunchaki ( 94514 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @04:52AM (#1072658) Homepage

    the whole idea behind nuking the moon strikes me as such a sad commentary on the Cold War that I had to post. The thinking behind this was such a pissing match it astounds me -- but here it is.

    Sad Commentary? -- surely. Astouding? -- maybe you had to have been there.

    I'm feeling like a dinosaur that I can actually remember the Cold War (the end of it, at least, I was born in 1965). I didn't realize until years later how much the Cold War mentality had shaped my childhood. For example, in high school I wrote the government for plans on how to build a nuclear bomb shelter (and got them!). I don't know what disturb me more: that I asked for them or that they sent them to me!

    In recent years I've worked with people a decade or so younger than myself and have found that they lack that visceral, subconcious understanding of what it was like. It's the same odd feeling I still get when I hang out at the pool with my younger friends. They (born after the early 70's) don't have small-pox vaccination scars. It took me a while -- staring blankly at their left shoulders -- until I figured out what was missing.

  • In fact, what you're referring to was the studies of using demolition nuclear devices to blow away mountains to build the Interstate 40 freeway where US 66 ran through (this is east of Barstow, CA).

    Fortunately, saner minds prevailed and it was decided to build the freeway just north of these mountains. I think complaints from the Santa Fe railroad convinced the Dept. of Transportation to drop the idea, too.
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @04:53AM (#1072660) Homepage
    This may be considered 'off topic' - I consider it 'meta-topic', and all this may just be an emergent phenomenon of the 'info age' but I'm seeing a lot of people going public and expressing disbelief in many of the 'plans' exposed by govts., whereas it may just be perfectly 'normal' contigency planning. Folks: govt's almost always 'plan' for every imaginable situation possible, and thankfully few of them ever come to pass. E.g., a local city bought a truckload of "this city is under martial law" in preparation for Y2K, is just one example. Naturally they try to keep it under wraps for public relations purposes, so as not to spook the public to riot. It doesn't mean we should run around screaming "the govt threatened to impose martial law!". I'm sure there's even a 'plan' for alien invasion, and you may not like what it entails, but it's probably there, waiting to be exposed so everyone can be shocked at what they were planning to do. Imagine if a city near a river felt exposed to flooding so the city wisely makes plans to deal with it in private, because if word got out a segment of the population would start panicking about a 'coming flood that they're not telling us about', when it may or may not.
  • Unfortunately our relatively massive moon is also slowing down the earth's rotation. We may want to draw it a little closer to give our rotation a boost when the day/night cycle starts to become a little too long for comfort.
  • WTF? All it would have to do is get out of the atmosphere, really, and keep enough velocity to overcome the microgravity Earth would exert on it at that point.

    Earth's gravity just above the atmosphere (about 100 miles up) is about 95% of surface gravity. "Microgravity" is an effect of free fall: you aren't pressing against the floor because the floor is accellerating just as fast as you are.

    The bottom line is that you need a delta vee of a few km/sec to drop something on the Godless Commies or the Yankee Imperialists from the other's territory, about 8 km/sec to put something in low earth orbit, or about 11 km/sec to reach the moon.

  • This is nothing compared to some of the stuff guys will do to impress women.

    This is basically the same thing, except instead of a pretty girl, it's other countries the US is trying to impress.

    USA: Hey Europe, check it out, I can build an atomic bomb! Wanna go to the malt shop?

    USSR: Big deal. I can put a man in space! So Europe, how 'bout we catch a movie later on Friday.

    USA: Ignore that loser, Europe. That's nothing. I bet I can blow up the moon! By the way, did you have any plans for prom?


  • Thanks for enlightening us all with your bitterness. Now I know more and am a better person for it.

    Next time you feel like bringing up a point, try to keep in mind that not all of us know everything. You seem to think I do know everything but that I somehow oppress the black man. Spout your hateism someplace else.

    Bad Mojo []
  • It was clear the main aim of the proposed detonation was a PR exercise and a show of one-upmanship. The Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large it would be visible on earth,' he said yesterday. 'The US was lagging behind in the space race.'

    I highly doubt there would have been a mushroom cloud on the moon. If I remember correctly a mushrom cloud is formed because the slight decrease in air pressure going up makes it a lot easier for the shockwave to move in that direction. At a certain point this effect becomes less important and the cloud becomes more or less spherical, hence the mushroom. On the moon there is no atmosphere to speak of, so I would expect a more spherical cloud.

  • the same token, it would be interesting to see what other things we've done in the last fifty years have been undertaken solely for their public relations benefits. The whole point of actually dropping the bombs on Japan was to "convince" them to give up, rather than fight on.

    The whole "race to the moon" gimmick was largely that -- a PR scheme intended to show US superiority. Given that we haven't been back in almost thirty years, and we've largely abandonded manned missions to anywhere but our own atmosphere, the "Rah-rah" crowd got what they wanted and turned it over to the budget guys who whacked anything that cost over a set amount, regardless of what the results might be.

    We may not see a manned mission to Mars unless there's some sort of compelling PR reason to do so.

  • If the plans were sensable, that argument would work. Unfortunatly, too many of those plans seem to be on the order of if the citizens protest X, we'll just nuke them untill the bedrock boils. That should quiet them down.

    Some of the plans are just plain insulting, like a contingency to collect income taxes in the event of nuclear winter. As if the government would have any right to expect popular support after screwing up that badly.

    If the plan is so terrible that it's existance is a PR problem, it probably should be changed anyway. If the plan were reasonable, one would expect it's existance to be good PR for a government working to protect it's citizens.

  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @07:07AM (#1072688) Homepage
    The plan makes little sense, even if you think scaring people with a nuclear test is a good idea.

    Nuclear explosions in a vacuum are boring, just a quick flash and they are over. Most of the impressive effects seen on Earth during nuclear tests are due to the fact that the atmosphere is opaque to soft x-rays. An exploding nuclear device can be looked at as a black-body radiator with its peak in the soft x-ray region. The fireball that we see on Earth is caused by the repeated absorption and emission of photons by molecules in the atmosphere in an expanding shell around the nuclear device. This converts the energy from soft x-rays into visible light and heat. The radiation also converts nitrogen in the atmosphere into an opaque nitrogen oxide "smog". The blast wave is produced by the heating and expansion of the atmosphere. The mushroom cloud is the result of the hot fireball of heated gases rising through the atmosphere like an air bubble in water. None of this would happen on the Moon.

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @04:55AM (#1072694) Homepage

    The early cold war years are often characterised by generals just itching to try out the new nuclear toy. With politicians often being the controlling factor preventing them.

    Thats the scary bit, politicians acting as the only buffer.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In 1958, and 1959 the US did not yet posses a reliable rocket capable of lifting such a heavy bomb to the moon. The US had a hard time getting a dinky satellite in orbit. The Atlas ICBM came online around 1960 and wasn't exactly the most reliable rocket at first. The chances of getting the moon with a nuke and having it explode on the first try were not good. It took the US many tries to get Ranger to the moon and have it return any useful information.

    While the idea was probably floated somewhere at some level in the US Govt. (look at all the crazy ideas floated on Slashdot!), practical considerations alone would have sunk the project as it was being overtaken by real events like the actual space race itself.
  • I just want to point out that despite all talk about "blowing up" the Earth during the cold war, we couldn't "blow up" the Moon even if we used all the nukes in the world. Make it a radioactive wasteland (as opposed to a nonradioactive one), yes, but actually destroy it? Even move its orbit? Not even slightly likely...

    (By the way, isn't stealing another moon because ours is getting too far away sort of like going to Japan to steal a shnauzer because yours got into the neighbor's yard?

  • Given that we sent the world a signal not once but twice in 1945, would it not have been redundant to do it again in the late 50's? Yes, it was a different show of force, but would we explode a nuke to give 'em the what-for everytime we were losing at something? The Soviets take more medals in the Olympics, so we blow up a track-and-field stadium?!

    I think Ike missed an opportunity with this one. He could have eroded Americans' faith in government a full year or two before he actually did with the U2 incident.

  • The Pentagon funds a lot of stupid research projects. This often happens at the end of a fiscal year when managers have to spend the rest of their allocated money or lose it. Sometimes, the resultant Really Stupid Project gets noticed and the manager gets to contemplate the peace and quiet of a remote Alaskan radar base. Sometimes, the Really Stupid Project is supposed to get noticed by the other guys. For instance, the Soviets stopped talking about Lunar military bases just about the time of this study. I'm sure it's a coincidence. During this period, my parents worked at the RAND Corporation, BTW. Something to do with Bombs.
  • by TheDullBlade ( 28998 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @08:22AM (#1072728)

    The fat man bomb needed compression this precise, but that doesn't mean that every nuke does. There's more than one way to build a nuke (I've only studied the first two, but that's enough to spot the error in your claim), and the trick is not to make the bomb explode, but to keep it from exploding before you want it to.

    Plutonium is fairly complex to fully ignite (damn stuff keeps blowing up partway before you can put it all together; you have to make the shift from safe to critical mass by fiddling with the chemical structure), but U235 bombs can be touchy. The little boy bomb could easily have been ignited by an external explosion from the wrong direction.

    People talk about "compression" of fissionable material to cause a nuclear blast, but this is only an implementation detail. What really causes the blast is "critical mass", or enough stuff packed close enough together to get a positive feedback chain reaction as fission begets neutron begets fission. For example, just building a 64 kg sphere of U235 in vaccuum or open air would result in a nuclear detonation (if you could build it fast enough, without the parts melting down on you as you brought them near to each other). Lighter nukes are made by reflecting the neutrons that would escape back into the pit.

    Scattering the fissionable material of a nuke would still be a pretty nasty mess. "In reality" I think the bomb squad would strongly prefer disarming a nuke without explosives.

    Another thing that can happen is for nukes to melt down without actually detonating. This could have happened with little boy bomb, if it was damaged or defective and water got into it. This could easily destroy a rocket and spread nuclear waste over a large area.

    Actually, a detonation after launch would be less dangerous than a meltdown or catastrophic rocket failure. The worst thing that could happen in such a moon shot is that all the fissionable material would survive, but be scattered over a wide area.

    Go see the nuke faq [].

  • Look at the timing. 1958? Exactly the time when lots of UFO activities have been reported. It's clear now: the people 'out there' talked the President into not doing it to protect their moon base.
  • A variation on this story that I heard (NPR, probably) was that Nike was going to put a giant "swoosh" in orbit to cast a shadow of its corporate logo on the moon. This was about the same time that Starship Troopers came out in theaters, so I couldn't help but think of Heinlein's old short story "The Man Who Sold the Moon". D. D. Harriman, the protagonist of the story, was trying to drum up financial support for a corporate moon shot. In one scene, he visited the head of the "Moka-Cola" beverage company with a button of the logo of their competitor "6+" superimposed on the moon. (I'm sure you've all seen the latest "Make 7-Up Yours" commercial, right?) Another scene was an attempt to scare up support from the U.S. government with another moon button, this one bearing a hammer and sickle.
  • by jhesse ( 138516 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @05:18AM (#1072801) Homepage
    Er... was.
    Unfortunatly, Alexander Abian passed away last year. His collegues in sci.physics and sci.math miss him very much.
    Abian's Iowa State homepage(last updated 4/28/97) []
    Abian's obituary []
    A tribute by A. Plutonium []

    "I have also mastered pomposity, even if I do say so myself." -Kryten
  • by Munky_v2 ( 124274 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @05:20AM (#1072832)
    It's like that one TV commercial here in the US.

    Man first went to the moon 30 years ago, and discovered that it was NOT made out of cheese.

    We haven't been back since.

    "Behold the power of cheese."

    Munky_v2 []
    "Warning: You are logged into reality as root..."

  • by RadioTV ( 173312 ) on Monday May 15, 2000 @05:49AM (#1072835)
    It would make no difference. The moon is constantly bombarded by radiation, and this would be only a tiny fraction of the force of some of the collisions that the moon has had.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead