A119: The US secret project to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon


Why would the US ‘nuke’ the moon?

Called “Project A119“, it was one of the most secret projects whose existence has long been denied until recently when declassified documents about the project were released to the public.

The Project referred to as A119, also known as “A Study of Lunar Research Flights,” was a highly secret plan developed in 1958 by the United States Air Force with the intention of detonating a nuclear bomb on the lunar surface. It is presumed that the purpose of this study was to demonstrate the superiority of the United States in relation to the Soviet Union and the rest of the world during the Cold War while scientifically speaking, it was meant to answer numerous questions in planetary astronomy and astrogeology.

Full details of the study were presented by Dr. Leonard Reiffel, who led the project in 1958 from a research foundation financed by the United States Army. Carl Sagan joined the research team responsible for the investigation of theoretical effects of a nuclear explosion in low gravity. Sagan revealed his participation in the plan in 1959.

“Project A119” was never carried out, probably because the landing the first man on the moon would contain a better reception from the US population, than detonating a nuke on the moon, which would have kickstarted a space militarization Era. However, another crucial detail was mentioned by project leader Leonard Reiffel when he warned that of detonating such a device on the lunar surface would create a lunar nuclear fallout, which eventually could cause major problems in future lunar research projects and colonization.

The documents proving the existence of “Project A119” remained hidden from the public for about forty-five years. Moreover, despite the disclosure of the files in the early 2000s, the US government has never officially acknowledged its involvement in the investigation. A former executive at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Leonard Reiffel who led “Project A119” in 1958 revealed the existence of documents proving it was more than just conspiracy theorists at work.

During initial planning for the mission, researchers considered using a hydrogen bomb in the first place. However, the United States Air Force vetoed this idea since a Hydrogen Bomb would have been extremely heavy making it hard to transport to the moon. Instead, scientists decided to utilize a W25 Warhead, which is a smaller, lightweight warhead with a relatively low 1.7 kiloton yield.

The Soviet counterpart

According to later reports by the time the US had developed the plan to nuke the lunar surface, the Soviets had developed a similar project which differed from the scenario reported by media. Started in January 1958, it was part of a series of proposals under the codename “E”. Project E-1 entailed plans to reach the Moon while projects E-2 and E-3 involved sending a probe around the far side of the Moon to take a series of photographs of its surface.

LCROSS, NASA and bombing the moon

While the _United States Airforce might have put a hold on “Project A119“, NASA did bomb the surface of the moon for alleged ‘Scientific’ purposes.

Despite the fact that it is strictly prohibited, NASA released a ‘Centaur’ kinetic weapon which ultimately impacted the moon.

‘Officially,’ the main LCROSS mission objective was to explore the presence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater near a lunar polar region. The mission was launched together with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on June 18, 2009, as part of the shared Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, the first American mission to the Moon in over ten years.