September 17, 2014 9:12 PM   Subscribe

This is not the stirring tale of macho crew cuts and heroic deeds from The Right Stuff that is now a fat chapter in every U.S. high school history book. This is a tale replete with fumbling, bumbling, bickering and at least one insane-sounding notion. To nuke the moon.
posted by Ghostride The Whip (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
posted by vverse23 at 9:43 PM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

...detailed studies recommended that the United States detonate a nuclear weapon near or on the moon, partly in hopes of setting off a “moonquake” and partly to scare the crap out of the Russians.
Which...would have worked. But that's the sort of thing North Korea would try if they had the capabilty.
posted by figurant at 9:56 PM on September 17, 2014

Many problems. One solution
posted by kagredon at 10:15 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


what could have gone wrong (other than a failed launch with fissile material burning up in earth's atmosphere and distributing itself over a population center)?

i doubt that it would have scared the crap out of the russians. i know some russians. the "CCCP" might have tried to one-up us by nuking mars.

there is another "insane-sounding" story circulating about how NASA inadvertently nuked jupiter when the galileo probe jettisoned its plutonium fuel cells, and an even more insane-sounding explanation that masons did it on purpose to ignite jupiter, arthur c. clarke style.

viewed from earth without magnification, the moon has been a fairly static, predictable object over my lifetime, but once in awhile someone is looking at it at just the right time for an asteroid impact and a big flash.

nowhere in the solar system is safe from people except maybe the sun. not much we can really do to fuck it up.
posted by bruce at 10:30 PM on September 17, 2014

That's a good post title.
posted by JHarris at 10:43 PM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

One of my favorite subtitles ever. Alexander Abian, rest in peace.
posted by lukemeister at 11:16 PM on September 17, 2014

Around 1959, American intelligence developed what seemed like a useful technology: equipment that could tamper with the electronics of orbiting satellites. Theoretically, the device could even be used to take control of an orbiting object. The equipment was tested, but just before somebody pointed it at a Soviet satellite, intelligence officers contacted a consultant with the National Security Agency to hear his thoughts. He shot them down quickly, saying the idea was a very, very bad one. By using the equipment, he argued, America would be setting the precedent that it was acceptable for countries to tamper with each other’s satellites, and if everyone started doing it, nobody would be able to use them. The equipment was disabled to ensure that no one would ever use it, even by accident.

oh, indeed

posted by Sebmojo at 1:45 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

What a fascinating article.

Another reason for shooting the moon? To prove to the world that America could do it. “Specific positive effects would accrue to the nation first performing such a feat as a demonstration of advanced technological capability,’’ the report said. Of course, it added, there could be considerable negative reaction around the world to the United States setting off a nuke on or near the lunar surface, “unless the climate of world opinion were well-prepared.”

posted by Sebmojo at 2:26 AM on September 18, 2014

::shrug:: Gotta nuke something.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 4:55 AM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

dialetheia beat me to the Mr. Show reference, as I knew someone would.

Hey Mr. Monkey, don't be askin' why! You know you can't mess ... with American Pride.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:05 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

One of my favorite subtitles ever. Alexander Abian, rest in peace.

I had no idea who he was at the time, but got to tour his house as part of this interview (pt 2, at his house). (I'm behind the camera)
posted by starman at 5:37 AM on September 18, 2014

Designs were drawn up for building nuclear reactors there, although no one seemed to have given much thought about where the radioactive waste would be disposed in the vacuum of space.

To be honest, no one seems to have given much thought about how to dispose of radioactive waste here on earth. At least not until we had too much of the stuff to easily deal with it.

The whole nuking the moon thing may seem outlandish now, but when I was growing up in the sixties, there were all sorts of proposals for non-military (more or less) uses for nuclear weapons. for example, there was a whole list of projects that came out of Operation Plowshare, as well as the idea of using nuclear explosions to power spacecraft. Viewed in that context, sure, why not nuke the moon?

The Lunik escapade was pretty cool, though. Glad to see it went better than Project Azorian. I'm surprised I hadn't heard about it before.
posted by TedW at 6:25 AM on September 18, 2014

Goddammit, it's like none of you proles have ever been on Usenet.

You don't blow up the moon, you chrome it! You chrome it once you've finished paving the Earth, so that when you're blasting across the asphalt wonderland of what used to be a forest in your nuclear-powered tractor-trailer rig, you've got something cool and shiny in the night sky to glance at between beers.

Sure, yes, some fanatics will insist that the moon be covered in paisley, but all right-thinking americans know what to do with such foolishness.

The moon. Chromed. You know it.
posted by aramaic at 6:25 AM on September 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Didn't anyone watch Space:1999?
posted by wittgenstein at 7:32 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

alt.chrome.the.moon FAQ "This newsgroup is intended for the discussion of topics related to covering the entire surface of the moon with strips of chrome."
posted by Nelson at 7:36 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

For those who wanted to know more about the Lunik program, be aware it's goes by 'Luna Programme' on Wikipedia.

This is not the stirring tale of macho crew cuts and heroic deeds from The Right Stuff ...

Humans landed on the Moon because of how people argue.

See the Russians did a lot of space stuff first. Which was terrible, because they were godless commies who were making America look bad. Even worse, Nikita Khrushchev, the General Secretary at the time, had the nerve to brag about this. This scared the hell out of America, which made President Eisenhower grudgingly create the civilian agency NASA (Because as a military man, he knew the military would just be infighting for pieces of the pie, er, contracts) and investigate the idea of sending men into space, which he saw little point in doing.

Meanwhile the Russians continued doing various firsts and gloating about it. Assholes. So Kennedy gets into office and demands to know what can be done about all this. The scientists hem and haw and agree that Russia will continue beating the US for some time. So Kennedy asked if there was anything the US could beat the Russian at in space. The scientists conferred and decided that the country could beat the Soviets to the Moon. So for that and a few other reasons, President pointed the United States towards the Moon.

The Soviets were like "What, the Moon? We're not going there, we're gonna build space stations and shit, and maybe a few of them will be used for spying, but the Moon, what's the point?! We'll just continue kicking your ass doing Low Earth Orbit stuff."

America: Nah sucka's, the real race is to the Moon!

Soviets: What the hell are you talking about, there is no race and definitely not the Moon, you crazy westerners!


Soviets: Oh hell no, it's on Mofos!

Yes, America essentially trolled the Soviets and moved the goalposts to declare themselves the winner. The Right Stuff was lovely image that helped sell the idea to the public.

Anyway the America's poured a ton of money into the space program, with an explicit directive to work on this single goal. The Soviets spent less money and divided that among several divisions with competing goals. Some wanted to go to the Moon, others wanted to exploit space for the military and others wanted to build space stations. Yes, America adopted a sort of communist mindset, while the Soviets were poorly funded capitalists. Interesting to see who won.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on September 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

We came in peace with nuclear explosions for all mankind.

Just doesn't have the same ring to it.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:42 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are we not supposed to mention Chairface Chippendale?
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 8:05 AM on September 24, 2014

In effect, he was mentioned before any of us had the chance, in the title of the post....
posted by JHarris at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2014

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