WTF Fun Fact 13369 – Bombing the Moon

During the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, when tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were at their peak, a truly audacious plan was proposed: bombing on the moon. This controversial proposal was known as “Project A119.” It was a testament to the extreme lengths humanity was willing to go to demonstrate power and assert dominance during this era.

The origins of Project A119

Project A119 was a top-secret plan devised by a group of American scientists. They were led by physicist Leonard Reiffel, who worked under the direction of the United States Air Force. The primary motivation behind the project was to showcase American technological prowess and military superiority to the world, particularly the Soviet Union.

The plan involved launching a nuclear bomb toward the moon, targeting its unexplored far side. The idea was to create a massive explosion visible from Earth, serving as a display of military might. The bomb would have been equivalent in power to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Why bombing the moon didn’t work out

Despite the audacity of the plan, scientists involved in Project A119 recognized the potential scientific value of the lunar explosion. They believed that the blast could reveal valuable information about the composition of the moon’s surface and the nature of lunar craters.

Although Project A119 was seriously considered, it never came to fruition. Concerns over the potential risks associated with the mission played a significant role in the project’s abandonment. No one knew what the consequences of bombing the moon might be.

The proposal to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon speaks to the extreme mindset prevailing during the Cold War. It reflects the fervent desire of both the United States and the Soviet Union to showcase their technological advancements.

The plan’s abandonment highlights the importance of responsible decision-making. It’s also a testament to considering the potential environmental impacts and long-term consequences that such actions could have on Earth.

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Source: “The crazy plan to explode a nuclear bomb on the Moon” — BBC

WTF Fun Fact 12765 – The North Carolina Nuclear Bomb

The North Carolina nuclear bomb incident occurred around midnight on January 23/24, 1961.

Despite the potential for catastrophe, not many people know about the event. But when documents from the incident were declassified in 2013 after a Freedom of Information request, we found out just how close the U.S. came to suffering a self-inflicted nuclear disaster.

North Carolina Nuclear Bomb incident

Residents of the small farming town of Faro, North Carolina (near Goldsboro) awoke one night in 1961 to the sound of a B-52 bomber accident.

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress broke up in the air, releasing the two 3–4-megaton Mark 39 nuclear bombs it was carrying. But dropping a bomb like this is different from having it explode. The nuclear payloads inside the bomb casings are what would have caused the major disaster and they had extra fail safes.

The plane

The plane was meeting up with a tanker for in-air refueling when the crew saw that it had a fuel leak in the right wing. Eventually, the pilot lost control of the rapidly leaking aircraft and ordered the crew to eject at 9000 feet. Unfortunately, two died in the crash, unable to parachute out, and one man died during his parachute landing. Five men survived.

The bombs then broke free of the aircraft and broke up roughly 1-2000 feet above the ground, releasing their payloads (but not activating them).

A very close call

In order for the payloads to detonate, the four arming mechanisms would have needed to break. In 2013, the US government released records showing that 3 out of the 4 mechanisms did fail, and one bomb had started to arm itself and charge its firing capacitors.

Only one functioning arming mechanism stood between North Carolina and a nuclear disaster. No one knows why the fourth mechanism stood up to the damage and failed to cause the explosion.

Remnants remain

The second bomb did not fully arm itself, but plunged into a muddy pit where it could not be recovered. All the military could do was remove the mechanism needed to detonate it and extract pieces of the bomb. Then, it covered the remaining parts with an easement, where it still sits today.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Remembering the night two atomic bombs fell—on North Carolina” — National Geographic