Thursday, 9 May 2019

project a1119

In response to the Sputnik crisis (previously here and here) and to boost American morale and reassert its dominance in the Space Race, the US Air Force developed a top-secret plan in May of 1958 to launch and detonate a nuclear bomb on the lunar surface.
This planned show of power was underwritten in part by geologists wanting to learn more about the satellite’s composition and formation and the team included a young Carl Sagan (*1934 - †1996). Ultimately better sense prevailed and the US (along with the Soviet Union who had a similar project in the works) called off the stunt for fear of public backlash and the uncertainty about the effects of fall-out for future colonists. The plan itself was not revealed to the public until forty-five years later in the mid-1990s, in part through Sagan’s 1999 autobiography, but did have more immediate impact with the Outer Space Treaty, accorded a decade later.