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December 19 2012

When the Air Force Wanted to Nuke the Moon

The American reaction to Sputnik was diverse. Laymen and aerospace professionals alike were divided; some were unthreatened by the Soviet feat while others were fearful, eager to see national programs fast tracked to match the adversary in the new realm of space.

United States Air Force Physicist Leonard Reiffel had a more drastic reaction. In 1958, he published a report that proposed nuking the moon.

The motivation for detonating a nuclear device, Reiffel wrote, "is clearly threefold: scientific, military and political." The report, innocuously titled A Study of Lunar Research Flights, focuses almost exclusively on the scientific benefits from such a mission.

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