In The 1950s, America Wanted To Nuke The Moon

Throughout the course of history, the U.S. has at least attempted to put a military base or nuclear weapons in just about any location you can dream up, from the middle of the desert to the depths of the Arctic. There's probably even a long-abandoned diagram in a dusty Pentagon cabinet featuring Mount Rushmore with a warhead jutting out of Lincoln's head like some radioactive stovepipe hat.

The moon was no exception. In the 1950s, before humans even reached the moon, the Air Force planned to detonate a nuclear weapon on the lunar surface as a grand, irrational display of power to intimidate the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Yes, the U.S. had an entire theoretical policy based on the same logic used by that grade-school bully who would punch icicles and make you thank him (because they weren't your face). Furthermore, there was discussion of using the moon as military "high ground," so that the United States could launch nukes from space if civility (and civilization) went to pot on Earth.

The plan was co-authored in partnership between the U.S. Air Force and every James Bond villain. U.S. Air ForceThe plan was co-authored in partnership between the U.S. Air Force and every James Bond villain.

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So why isn't there a photo of a lunar mushroom cloud in textbooks? American officials realized that just maybe there was a radioactive PR nightmare waiting in the wings if the launch failed in the Earth's atmosphere. (There were additional fears that detonating a nuclear weapon on the moon could potentially make it more inhospitable to human life than, well, usual.)

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