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Moon The Military United States

Carl Sagan Was On US Team To Nuke the Moon 206

Posted by timothy
from the only-a-light-nuking-around-the-edges dept.
First time accepted submitter novakom writes "Apparently during the cold war, one fall-back position the U.S. was looking at to ensure mutual assured destruction was to put nukes on the moon. This would ensure that the U.S. could retaliate against even an effective first strike by the Russians. The first step, of course, would be to detonate a nuke on the moon. And yes, Carl Sagan was on the team (and apparently leaked the info!)"
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Carl Sagan Was On US Team To Nuke the Moon

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:33PM (#42135495)

    In what world does putting nukes on the moon require first detonating them on the moon? It would seem like that might make things harder.

    • First you launch nukes at the moon to judge how well they work in space warfare. Later you build a base there which can launch nukes of its own.
      • First you launch nukes at the moon to judge how well they work in space warfare. Later you build a base there which can launch nukes of its own.

        ...

        But if the purpose of the moon-nuke-base was to launch attacks on terrestrial targets, who gives a rats ass how they work in 'space warfare?'

        • by Culture20 (968837)
          Presumably to make sure that the moon base would be safe from enemy nukes (no thermal shockwave).
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @07:48PM (#42137013) Journal

        Uhhh...we had already seen how they work in space, so making the moon glow in the dark would make NO sense!

        My guess is its more likely an "Operation Plowshares" kind of deal, everyone forgets that once upon a time they thought you could use nukes like really really REALLY big dynamite, they even looked at making canals by using shaped nuke charges.

        Considering how many completely stupid things we did, what with the above ground tests and air bursts and water tests? Frankly we are lucky we aren't having to look at the moon as a new home, man we were REALLY stupid when it came to radiation back then. Of course back then our ships were filled with asbestos to cut down the risk of fires so long term thinking? REALLY not big back then.

        • not so much lack of thinking as lack of knowledge

        • by cyn1c77 (928549) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:31PM (#42138677)

          Uhhh...we had already seen how they work in space, so making the moon glow in the dark would make NO sense!

          My guess is its more likely an "Operation Plowshares" kind of deal, everyone forgets that once upon a time they thought you could use nukes like really really REALLY big dynamite, they even looked at making canals by using shaped nuke charges.

          Considering how many completely stupid things we did, what with the above ground tests and air bursts and water tests? Frankly we are lucky we aren't having to look at the moon as a new home, man we were REALLY stupid when it came to radiation back then. Of course back then our ships were filled with asbestos to cut down the risk of fires so long term thinking? REALLY not big back then.

          Hindsight is 20-20. Every generation thinks that the prior one made some really bad choices. You need to remember that the state of science back then was not what it was today and it not what it will be in the future.

          Do you really think that our kids won't be thinking the same thing 50 years from today about the Iraq/Afganistan war, TSA's terahertz detectors, burning hydrocarbons for fuel, smoking, etc...?

        • Yes, let's blame them for not knowing asbestos caused cancer, as nobody had been around asbestos long enough to get cancer from it yet. THOSE MORONS!! You have a bad case of 20/20 hindsight. It's frightening to think that people think like you.
          • by Belial6 (794905)
            Not to mention that asbestos, and as any Whole Foods shopper can tell you, if it is natural, it is good for you.
        • by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:08AM (#42140323) Homepage

          >so making the moon glow in the dark would make NO sense!

          Because it already does that ?!

    • by sribe (304414) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:53PM (#42135719)

      In what world does putting nukes on the moon require first detonating them on the moon? It would seem like that might make things harder.

      I think the summary was poorly worded. It's not the first step to getting them on the moon; it's the first to using them as a deterrent, after siting on the moon, because it would be proof positive to the Soviets that you had actually gotten working nukes onto the moon, as opposed to some kind non-functional decoy. (Ironically, decades later, Ronald Reagan used a non-functioning decoy (SDI) to wreck the Soviet economy and win the cold war...)

      • because it would be proof positive to the Soviets that you had actually gotten working nukes onto the moon

        Detonating a nuke right before it impacts the moon would be orders of magnitude easier than landing them there, sheltering them from the elements and maintaining them there for years in operational condition. (All long range missiles were liquid fueled back then, and with the primitive computers and robotics of the time, it probably would have required a full-time manned presence on the moon, just like we had in earthbound missile silos.)

        Moreover, with the technology of the era, it seems like it would be pr

      • by ari_j (90255) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:32PM (#42136131)
        It's also proof of concept. If you can launch a nuclear missile from Earth and detonate it on or near the surface of the moon, particularly if you can get reasonably close to a specific position on the surface of the moon, then you can likely do the same in reverse. If you can't nuke the moon from Earth, then you can't nuke Earth from the moon.
        • by blackicye (760472)

          It's also proof of concept. If you can launch a nuclear missile from Earth and detonate it on or near the surface of the moon, particularly if you can get reasonably close to a specific position on the surface of the moon, then you can likely do the same in reverse. If you can't nuke the moon from Earth, then you can't nuke Earth from the moon.

          The margin for error is much larger when you're sending the Nuke over...no atmosphere and no friendlies primarily.
          I'm fairly certain sending one from the Moon to an Earthbound target is _much_ trickier..

          But then again if your strategy is similar to North Korea's, and you're just trying to convince your potential
          enemies that you're batshit insane, it would be a fairly convincing demonstration.

        • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @07:40PM (#42136917) Journal

          ... If you can't nuke the moon from Earth, then you can't nuke Earth from the moon.

          Horse manure. Different size gravity wells.

      • by osu-neko (2604)

        (Ironically, decades later, Ronald Reagan used a non-functioning decoy (SDI) to wreck the Soviet economy and win the cold war...)

        An outcome that Andrei Gromyko and others predicted in the early-to-mid 70s and were working furiously behind the scenes to try to avert. Wait, how they they know Ronald Reagan was going to do that? They didn't. There were merely aware of the coming problems leading to the (it turned out) inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union THAT HAD NOTHING AT ALL WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH anything Ronald Reagan did. Mickey Mouse could have been president throughout the 80s and the Soviet Union would have collapsed righ

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dbIII (701233)
        Wrong. The Soviets were quite capable of destroying their economy on their own and had effectively done so while Reagan was still trying to do the same in California.
      • by Alomex (148003)

        Ironically, decades later, Ronald Reagan used a non-functioning decoy (SDI) to wreck the Soviet economy and win the cold war...

        The Soviet politburo has declared the cold war unwinnable in the late 70s, much before Reagan ever thought of SDI.

        Reagan did not win the cold war, he negotiated a peaceful end to it, given the victory the USA had secured before him.

      • by initialE (758110)

        First thing I thought was placing the moon on a collision course with the earth, thereby ensuring the extinction of all life. Take that you soviet dogs!

    • Well that's just it: it's not the world. It's the moon. Your earth-logic has no place on the theoretical-cold-war-moon-nuclear-base.
    • by rubycodez (864176)

      in the real world, when designing a nuclear missile silo that will sit in bedrock, it is crucial to ascertain shock propogation characteristics of nuclear detonations

    • You need to convince those damn Lunans that you mean business.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      If you can get a missile to go to the moon from Earth it's easier for it to get to Earth from the moon. Remember, this was in the late 50s when the only thing that had travelled in space at all was Sputnik.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It demonstrates your capability to your enemy. Perhaps more to the point, it demonstrates your capability to the citizens of your enemy in a way that makes it hard for their government to censor.

  • The things they'll sacrifice...
    • The things they'll sacrifice...

      Yes. Us, basically. We *so* need to get out of this egg before we run out of resources.

      • by lennier (44736)

        We *so* need to get out of this egg before we run out of resources.

        .. and into the giant pit of vacuum in which there are even less resources? Good plan.

        • We *so* need to get out of this egg before we run out of resources.

          .. and into the giant pit of vacuum in which there are even less resources? Good plan.

          WTF man? Of course he was talking about going some where else with sufficient resources and habitable conditions. You might as well have assumed he meant we should set up a colony on the surface of the sun for all the idiocy you've attributed to him.

          • by CapOblivious2010 (1731402) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @07:21PM (#42136733)

            WTF man? Of course he was talking about going some where else with sufficient resources and habitable conditions. You might as well have assumed he meant we should set up a colony on the surface of the sun for all the idiocy you've attributed to him.

            As long as you stayed inside during the day, and only went out at night, a solar colony might be workable.

    • I'd argue that this WOULD be a pretty big change to war. The crusades weren't fought with moon-nukes. Sorry, Fallout.
    • by alostpacket (1972110) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:52PM (#42136361) Homepage

      Yeah, but the Moon deserved it. Have you seen the way it can hit your eye?

  • I know we all joke about politicians and bureaucrats, but to think there are really people that stupid in high places just scares the crap out of me.
    • by Eightbitgnosis (1571875) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:38PM (#42135559) Homepage
      Have faith that there are so many stupid people in so many positions that they kinda cancel each other out most of the time
    • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:49PM (#42135669)

      What is stupid about it? At the time, the only true revenge weapon was the nuclear submarines, and the US in 1959 had just 5 of those.

      You need an if-all-else-fails weapon, otherwise you have to keep your nuclear forces on high alert at all times to avoid losing to a first strike. Staying at high alert risks launching by mistake.

      • The entire idea of revenge in a thermonuclear exchange is what is stupid. The priority should be PREVENTION, not lobbing nukes with our dying breath. The only winning move is not to play.
        • by Pulzar (81031) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:04PM (#42135845)

          "MAD" was exactly what the prevention was about. If you have a system that's going to kill the opponent even after he kills you, then they will likely not try to kill you in the first place.

          If Russians felt, at any time, that a quick strike would take the US revenge capability, they'd be a lot more likely to strike than if they knew that moon nukes would be coming afterwards.

        • by amorsen (7485)

          Fair enough, but in 1959 you were probably somewhat concerned about what havoc (almost-)conventional warfare could wreak.

          At that time the number of warheads was insufficient to destroy humanity. An all-out nuclear war at that time would kill MUCH fewer people than the Second World War did, albeit quicker. Nuclear war was not at all unthinkable -- in fact, right at that time there was Air Force and CIA leaders which believed that the US would soon have an outright missile majority which would make a first st

      • by blackicye (760472)

        What is stupid about it? At the time, the only true revenge weapon was the nuclear submarines, and the US in 1959 had just 5 of those.

        You need an if-all-else-fails weapon, otherwise you have to keep your nuclear forces on high alert at all times to avoid losing to a first strike. Staying at high alert risks launching by mistake.

        Or the easier alternative would have been to not be so paranoid and psychotic and all just try to play nice in this little sandbox we've been forced to share..

        • not easy to be zen when in a sand box full of paranoid psychotic killers

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Hard to be calm in those times apparantly. The US government had only worked out a few years earlier that fun loving "Uncle Joe Stalin" with all those jokes about mass murder really was the monster Churchill and half the fucking world had warned them about earlier. The sense of shame and betrayal meant they were out for blood.
    • by Chewbacon (797801)
      What's interesting is you have doctors doing mission trips, free software developers, and scientists living off what grants they've begged for and received and they do this all for the good of people. Who do we put in power? Greedy, violent assholes with the means to destroy everything. We got it all wrong, folks. The latter types should be put on the back burner.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Volastic (2781511)

      I know we all joke about politicians and bureaucrats, but to think there are really people that stupid in high places just scares the crap out of me.

      Na, what's really frightening is the U.S. missed the moon 2 times in their first attempts.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranger_program [wikipedia.org] so you would have two nukes flying who knows where.

      Be try to spot a big boy sized "asteroids" at this time.

      To actually answer your post, yes the U.S. was very paranoid and sure the Russians were going to strike.
      It wasn't until they tapped into the undersea telephone cable that they found it far from the truth.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ivy_Bells [wikipedia.org]

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Why is it frightening or stupid? I find nuking the moon a lot less frightening than nuking the Earth... 2000 times.

  • That's crazy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:41PM (#42135595)

    ...but also kind of badass at the same time.

  • For the claim that Carl Sagan wanted to nuke the frickin' moon.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      here [wikipedia.org]

    • Why would there have to be extraordinary evidence? Why couldn’t Sagan be on this team and have a negative opinion of it?

      Why is it hard to believe that
              That there was a team to study a project and
              That a member thought the plan was a bad idea?

      If you are going to pack a team with a bunch of ideological yes men – why form a team?

      • I think the central tenet here is deterrent at any cost. Nuclear warheads orbiting the moon must have been a plan for survival. To what extent it was premeditated I would like to know. Did von Braun design the Saturn V to carry nukes? Why wouldn't he?

  • stupid (Score:5, Funny)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:51PM (#42135687)
    That's stupid. They should put the nukes on the dark side and then detonate them all at once to crash the moon into Russia. That's so much more direct and efficient than launching the missiles themselves from the moon at Russia.
    • That would be MAAD: Mutually assured AWESOME destruction.
    • Re:stupid (Score:5, Funny)

      by alexander_686 (957440) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:20PM (#42136011)

      I don’t know. I knew a Polish physics professor who had defected in the 60’s. He though it would be a great idea to detonate a few nuclear bombs to increase earth’s tilt so the USSR would be where the North Pole is now.

      This seems a lot less radical.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      That's stupid. They should put the nukes on the dark side and then detonate them all at once to crash the moon into Russia.

      No, no, no. That's stupid. Everyone knows that nukes "going off" on the dark side of the moon will push the moon AWAY from the earth and out into space where we'll come across all kinds of interesting aliens and other planets and stuff within just a few weeks. Don't you watch TV at ALL?

  • I'd nuke the moon, if for no other reason than just to see what happens.

    I know what you're thinking, and the answer is 'indeed, I am a mad scientist - why do you ask?'
  • slow news day? (Score:5, Informative)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:53PM (#42135721) Journal

    > [...........] And yes, Carl Sagan was on the team (and apparently leaked the info!)

    That's in the wiki entry [wikipedia.org]. Slow news during the holiday season?

  • If by "nuking" the moon, you mean completely obliterating it like some James Bond villain and screwing up our tides, don't be ridiculous. That isn't even within our capability.

    They proposed detonating a nuclear device on the moon. So what? Aside from the needless complexity and expense, how is nuking a lifeless rock outside of Earth's atmosphere worse than than nuking the Bikini Atoll, or the desert in New Mexico?

    That said, I don't understand what advantage they thought they would gain by having missile bas

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      Remembers me the Armaggedon movie. Should be "a bit" harder to take out the moon from its orbit than stopping a asteroid falling on Earth with nukes. Probably a lot of the big impacts on the moon in historical times were orders of magnitudes stronger than any nuke ever made here... and it still there.

      And about making some light up there to showoff, maybe this [xkcd.com] could give an idea of the dimension of the project.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      That said, I don't understand what advantage they thought they would gain by having missile bases on the moon.

      Simple. If country X launches a first-strike trying to disable country Y, then country Y's moon-based nukes would allow them to disable country X in return. "Mutual Assured Destruction" doesn't work when there isn't mutual assured destruction.

      If country Y tries to take out country X's moon-based missiles, the time it takes for the attack to reach the moon would allow country X lots of time to ... rain mutually assured destruction down upon the heads of country Y.

  • I'll wait for the moondust to settle on this. But how's this any worse than Einstein writing or at least signing the letter that led to the actual detonation of three bombs, including the two original weapons of mass destruction? Sagan wasn't a nuclear scientist, so he couldn't have had a direct hand in the logistics of the operation, just as Einstein wasn't involved in the design of the first nukes.

  • The Onion called (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @05:59PM (#42135789) Journal

    ...they want their story back.

  • by Swampash (1131503) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:01PM (#42135801)

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2000/may/14/spaceexploration.theobserver [guardian.co.uk]

    Slashdot editors, kill yourselves.

  • Apparently, the last two astronauts on the Moon went through an exchange like this: "Hey, can you help me up the ladder?", "Sure, no problem". Thus, the exchange demonstrated a system whereby those with need were met by those with ability. Sometime later an analyst at the Pentagon reviewed this. Since those were the only residents, their interactions fully characterized the political orientation of the Moon. The interaction was communist in nature, even if not explicitly Communist or otherwise stated a

  • A Realistic Plan for World Peace
    a.k.a
    Nuke the Moon

    http://www.imao.us/docs/NukeTheMoon.htm [www.imao.us]

  • Nuclear explosions? On the moon?

    Were they hoping to blast it out of the earth's orbit and travel across space on it, meeting a new alien civilisation every week?
    • by Grog6 (85859)

      Actually, it was a nuclear waste dump that exploded, throwing the moon out of orbit.

  • would have been from orbit.

  • To the moon, Brezhnev!

  • from TFA:
    "The military considerations were frightening.
    The report said a nuclear detonation on the moon could yield information
    "...concerning the capability of nuclear weapons for space warfare." "

    Does this make sense to you? Exactly what practical information could it yield?

    Explosions with that technology might not even be visible to earthlings,
    nor be very destructive to the moon.

    Perhaps the real reason for explosions on the moon was not written down.
    I can't imagine any benefit; scientific, military or pol

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Delivering a nuke to the moon would have meant rockets capable of making the trip. That was the real development. I'm really not sure why it's frightening. ICBMs are frightening. Nukes that can make it to the moon, and nukes in space are... meh.

  • God damn you Sagan, no one wants to eat radioactive cheese. Leave the moon alone!
  • Apparently this whole situation started because a note from senior management was mistakenly written as shoot the moon instead of shoot for the moon.

  • In 1959, John Wyndham (the Day of the Triffids, the Chrysalids etc) wrote a set of linked short stories about a family participating in the colonisation of space. In one of these, the USA, Russia and the UK have nuclear armed moon bases.

    An interesting case of art imitating life - even if the the life was top secret at the time!

  • Was Chairface Chippendale on the team, and if so, who the fuck cleared him?

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