The Most Grandiose Foreign Policy Gesture in History

 

I’ll see Rob’s War on Men and raise him a War on the Universe.

This story only came out earlier today, but somewhere in Hollywood the rough draft of a script is already being formed. From CBS DC:

Would Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin even had a moon to walk on if the United States had its way in the 1950s?

During the height of the Cold War, U.S. officials debated whether to detonate nuclear bomb on the moon in order to send a message to the Soviet Union, the Asian News International reports.

The secret project dubbed, “A Study of Lunar Research Flights” and nicknamed “Project A119,” was seriously being considered until it was scrapped because military officials were worried it would hurt the people on Earth.

Oh, and by the way, read the reports in full … Carl Sagan was in on it. Box office gold, people.

Here’s the part I’m still getting my head around: you’re a senior Soviet official in 1950s Moscow. What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weapon on the moon?

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Members have made 29 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Crow's Nest Member

    A bit loony if you ask me….

    Putting the men there sent a more powerful message to Moscow, and our lack of a serious space program today sends another equally powerful one to our foes. 

    • #1
    • November 27, 2012 at 1:24 am
  2. Profile photo of Southern Pessimist Member

    I suppose there might have been unintended consequences to blowing up the moon, I mean the tides are a good thing I think, but it still would have been pretty cool.

    • #2
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:15 am
  3. Profile photo of KC Mulville Member

    What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weapon on the moon?

    The US Guidance system is seriously out of whack.

    • #3
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:17 am
  4. Profile photo of Drusus Member

    Somewhere, Newt Gingrich is stroking out. 

    • #4
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:21 am
  5. Profile photo of C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    KC Mulville:What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weapon on the moon?

    The US Guidance system is seriously out of whack. · 1 minute ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    “We are so freakin’ nuts, we bomb planetary bodies THAT HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING TO US! Are you sure you want to mess with us?!”

    Clearly it would be an attempt to play the Crazy Card. As a former aspiring Mad Scientist, I approve.

    • #5
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:22 am
  6. Profile photo of Roberto Member
    Troy Senik, Ed.: Here’s the part I’m still getting my head around: you’re a senior Soviet official in 1950s Moscow. What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weaponon the moon? · 

    If we’re willing to nuke the moon simply because they looked at us funny the official wonders: how will those crazy Americans deal with those who truly irritate them?

    • #6
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:25 am
  7. Profile photo of Roberto Member
    C. U. Douglas
    KC Mulville:What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weapon on the moon?

    The US Guidance system is seriously out of whack. · 1 minute ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    “We are so freakin’ nuts, we bomb planetary bodies THAT HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING TO US! Are you sure you want to mess with us?!”

    Clearly it would be an attempt to play the Crazy Card. As a former aspiring Mad Scientist, I approve. · 3 minutes ago

    I see we’re on the same wavelength. 

    • #7
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:26 am
  8. Profile photo of BrentB67 Inactive

    I don’t think it would’ve blown the moon up, probably just put another crater on it.

    The question becomes – if someone detonates a nuke on the moon and nobody was watching did anyone see it happen?

    • #8
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:27 am
  9. Profile photo of Bye! Inactive
    Roberto
    C. U. Douglas
    KC Mulville:What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weapon on the moon?

    The US Guidance system is seriously out of whack. · 1 minute ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    “We are so freakin’ nuts, we bomb planetary bodies THAT HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING TO US! Are you sure you want to mess with us?!”

    Clearly it would be an attempt to play the Crazy Card. As a former aspiring Mad Scientist, I approve.

    I see we’re on the same wavelength.

    Along with Frank J. Fleming, as noted by our friendly Vodkapundit.

    Good company.

    • #9
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:34 am
  10. Profile photo of Group Captain Mandrake Inactive

    General Hawk: Sir, are you suggesting that we blow up the moon?

    President: Would you miss it? (to the other assembled officers and politicians) Would you miss it?

    (From “The Spy Who Shagged Me”).

    • #10
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:36 am
  11. Profile photo of Troy Senik Editor
    Troy Senik Post author
    Roberto
    Troy Senik, Ed.: Here’s the part I’m still getting my head around: you’re a senior Soviet official in 1950s Moscow. What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weaponon the moon? · 

    If we’re willing to nuke the moon simply because they looked at us funny the official wonders: how will those crazy Americans deal with those who truly irritate them? · 6 minutes ago

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this was their controlling though process, but, were I in Moscow, I’d be just as likely to look at as an impotent exercise in bravado. I’d think you were crazy enough to be feared if you bombed a helpless and unantagonistic population. If you bombed an uninhabited satellite, I’d think you were crazy enough to be mocked.

    • #11
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:37 am
  12. Profile photo of C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    Roberto
    Troy Senik, Ed.: Here’s the part I’m still getting my head around: you’re a senior Soviet official in 1950s Moscow. What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weaponon the moon? · 

    If we’re willing to nuke the moon simply because they looked at us funny the official wonders: how will those crazy Americans deal with those who truly irritate them? · 6 minutes ago

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this was their controlling though process, but, were I in Moscow, I’d be just as likely to look at as an impotent exercise in bravado. I’d think you were crazy enough to be feared if you bombed a helpless and unantagonistic population. If you bombed an uninhabited satellite, I’d think you were crazy enough to be mocked. · 0 minutes ago

    Well, reading the full article, seems we fell well short of “Crazy Enough.” When we’re worried about the possible ramifications on our own population should things go wrong, we aren’t crazy. Remember the days when we worried about possible ramifications before undertaking an activity?

    • #12
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:47 am
  13. Profile photo of flownover Inactive

    This explains alot about :

    1. NASA and the Shuttle and the results we are left with

    2. CIA, NSA, and all the big rewards like Bay of Pigs, Iran , Turkey , Cuba, and on ……

    3. How we let the Soviets kill 40 million and let the Chinese kill 60 million .

    4. Vietnam

    5. Mutual Assured Destruction (probably had nothing to do with nuclear)

    6. Jimmy Carter

    7. Duck and cover

    • #13
    • November 27, 2012 at 6:52 am
  14. Profile photo of Austin Murrey Member

    Frank J Fleming can time travel? Now I know we’re all doomed!

    • #14
    • November 27, 2012 at 7:05 am
  15. Profile photo of Roberto Member
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    Roberto

    If we’re willing to nuke the moon simply because they looked at us funny the official wonders: how will those crazy Americans deal with those who truly irritate them? · 6 minutes ago

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this was their controlling though process, but, were I in Moscow, I’d be just as likely to look at as an impotent exercise in bravado. I’d think you were crazy enough to be feared if you bombed a helpless and unantagonistic population. If you bombed an uninhabited satellite, I’d think you were crazy enough to be mocked. · 14 minutes ago

    Just as well we didn’t go through it then. Give Khrushchev ammunition for mockery to firm up his shoe banging… who knows what the results may have been? The West might have collapsed in the 1960’s after having been thoroughly mocked a second time following Yalta. 

    Actually the most interesting item I noticed about that article is that it is cribbed from the British press. One sees a great deal of that lately, odd.

    • #15
    • November 27, 2012 at 7:15 am
  16. Profile photo of BlueAnt Member
    Troy Senik, Ed.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this was their controlling though process, but, were I in Moscow, I’d be just as likely to look at as an impotent exercise in bravado. I’d think you were crazy enough to be feared if you bombed a helpless and unantagonistic population. If you bombed an uninhabited satellite, I’d think you were crazy enough to be mocked.

    It depends on how you play it off. It works best if the moon bombing was followed by a cool, controlled message from the top, with a deadpan delivery. “Oh that… yeah, we just wanted to test how far we could successfully obliterate stuff.” The commies get the message pretty clearly.

    If the lunar nuking was followed by Congress making an [expletive elided] of themselves… well, more than usual… with bravado and chest thumping and “see what great terrors we have wrought!” kind of bragging, then yeah, the Soviets would rightly look on the US as dangerous lunatics.

    Sometimes the medium is the message, and earth-visible explosions on a planetary satellite is one heck of a communications medium.

    • #16
    • November 27, 2012 at 7:15 am
  17. Profile photo of Palaeologus Member
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    Roberto
    Troy Senik, Ed.: Here’s the part I’m still getting my head around: you’re a senior Soviet official in 1950s Moscow. What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weaponon the moon? · 

    If we’re willing to nuke the moon simply because they looked at us funny the official wonders: how will those crazy Americans deal with those who truly irritate them? · 6 minutes ago

    …If you bombed an uninhabited satellite, I’d think you were crazy enough to be mocked.

    I agree Troy. Nuking Canada is a terrible idea.

    • #17
    • November 27, 2012 at 7:21 am
  18. Profile photo of Jimmy Carter Member

    Actually, this was the original recipe for fried cheese.

    • #18
    • November 27, 2012 at 7:23 am
  19. Profile photo of Tom Meyer, Ed. Editor
    John Walker: As I remarked earlier on Twitter, this article about “blowing up [the] Moon” may not just be the scientific innumeracy of the day, but perhaps of the decade. It is far more difficult to blow up a planet or moon than that!

    I second John’s nomination for the most misleading lede in recent memory: we’re not even close to technology that would allow us to “blow-up” a large asteroid, let alone something orders of magnitude larger, like the Moon.

    That’s right: Michael Bay is more scientifically accurate than this headline.

    • #19
    • November 27, 2012 at 7:43 am
  20. Profile photo of Jimmy Carter Member

    How awesome it would be: First We bomb the hell out of it, then We cover the face of it with Pepsi advertising. I love it.

    • #20
    • November 27, 2012 at 8:09 am
  21. Profile photo of Give Me Liberty Inactive

    I believe they call it “projection of power.”

    • #21
    • November 27, 2012 at 8:59 am
  22. Profile photo of Hank Rhody Member

    I’m in favor of nuking the moon now. For no better reason than “It would be awesome.”

    • #22
    • November 27, 2012 at 9:01 am
  23. Profile photo of Fredösphere Member

    The Soviets came up with a similar plan, called E-4. It’s purpose was to demonstrate conclusively that a Soviet rocket had reached the moon.

    Somewhere along the way, someone suggested that nuclear bombs on the moon, by throwing up a huge cloud of dust on the surface, might turn the moon Soviet red, which they thought would be very cool. Then they remembered the moon has no atmosphere, so it can’t sustain dust clouds. Oh well.

    The Soviets made whatever point they were ever going to make about their nuclear potency by detonating the Tsar Bomba.

    • #23
    • November 27, 2012 at 9:26 am
  24. Profile photo of AIG Member
    AIG

    What message exactly are you taking from the America detonation of a nuclear weapon on the moon?

    It’s like those anti-drug commercials with the egg and the frying pan:

    “This is the Soviet Union”…

    • #24
    • November 27, 2012 at 9:44 am
  25. Profile photo of Roberto Member
    Fredösphere: The Soviets made whatever point they were ever going to make about their nuclear potency by detonating the Tsar Bomba. · 13 minutes ago

    I do not recall us being impressed. Now if they had detonated it on the moon…

    • #25
    • November 27, 2012 at 9:45 am
  26. Profile photo of John Walker Contributor

    As I remarked earlier on Twitter, this article about “blowing up [the] Moon” may not just be the scientific innumeracy of the day, but perhaps of the decade. It is far more difficult to blow up a planet or moon than that!

    In the late 1950s the Soviets considered a similar project, designated Ye-3, proposed by Academician Yakov Zeldovich, to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon. In chapter 25 of Boris Chertok’s Rockets and People, Vol. 2, he writes:

    The Ye-3 program was concocted exclusively for irrefutable proof of our hitting the Moon. It was assumed that when the atomic bomb struck the Moon, there would be such a flash of light that all observatories capable of observing the Moon at that moment would easily record it. We even fabricated mock-ups of the lunar capsule with a mock-up nuclear warhead.

    So it wasn’t just the cowboy Americans contemplating this; the Soviets were also thinking about it at the same time.

    There is a scientific rationale for this: by monitoring the spectrum of the incandescent debris, you can get a sense of the Moon’s composition without having to return a sample.

    • #26
    • November 27, 2012 at 9:57 am
  27. Profile photo of Misthiocracy Member

    According to what I’ve read on this episode, Carl Sagan’s research (when he was a grad student) is likely what helped convince them NOT to go ahead with the plan.

    As such, IMHO, it’s a little bit of an overstretch to say that Carl Sagan was “in on it”.

    • #27
    • November 27, 2012 at 10:08 am
  28. Profile photo of Chris O. Member

    I get Troy’s thought about it giving the Soviets prime mocking material, but the Soviets were all about shows. We still see this in North Korea. The parades, the gleaming city that is Pyongyang, even while the rest of the country suffers. Communist governments are/were all about presenting a bold face. What would have been bolder than making every Communist Party member stare up at the moon and think, “That could be us. These Americans are nuke crazy!”

    Of course, the down side would have been most of western Europe joining the Warsaw Pact…

    (No, I’m not taking this seriously. Fun to think about, though.)

    • #28
    • November 28, 2012 at 9:17 am
  29. Profile photo of Misthiocracy Member

    Wasn’t this the plot of several episodes of The Tick?

    • #29
    • November 28, 2012 at 9:28 am