What was Project A119?

In order to boost the morale of the American population, the Air Force devised the bizarre plan to drop a nuclear bomb on the Moon. The initiative was called Project A119.

Under the name of Study on scientific flights to the Moon, Project A119 wanted to use a bomb with characteristics similar to the one that was dropped on the city of Hiroshima a few years earlier. They thus determined that it should be a relatively low-yield bomb (1.7 kilotons). A team of 10 people led by Leonard Reiffel were in charge of studying the potential and feasibility of the possible explosion.

To get an idea of ​​detonation proportions, the Little Boy bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945 had a yield of 13-18 kilotons. The W25 would be carried by a rocket to the dark side of the Moon, where it would detonate on impact. The dust cloud resulting from the explosion would be illuminated by the Sun and therefore visible from Earth. According to Reiffel, the Air Force’s progress in developing ICBMs would have made that launch possible in 1959.

Most surprising, however, is that Carl Sagan was a member of the team responsible for investigating the theoretical effects of a nuclear explosion at low gravity.

The explosion would be seen as a spectacle attended by millions of people watching the Moon at the moment of detonation. Like a really expensive fireworks display.

The Project went very far, but fortunately it was left without funding, being canceled in 1959 for fear of a negative reaction from the world population, later changing the objective to the arrival on the Moon. In 1963 the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed and in 1967 the Outer Space Treaty to avoid other displays of power like this in the future.

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