Apparently, the race to the Moon wasn’t just a matter of prestige for the Soviet Union. It was a military project conceived by Joseph Stalin as both superpowers were arming themselves with nuclear weapons. A recent Russian documentary claims that Stalin and his generals had a big idea in regards to the lunar surface. They would travel to the Moon and build a base, not for exploration and science, but to launch nuclear warheads at any opponent below with impunity. The Moon would become a military base enabling the USSR to carry out nothing less than a planetary assault any time it wanted.
If this sounds like total nonsense to you right off the bat, you may want to consider how Soviet rulers really thought. They saw their entire nation as a workforce they could use to achieve any project and they liked to plan big. Very big. They weren’t a scientifically educated bunch either and their big schemes weren’t always tethered in reality. Though the evidence provided by the documentary is rather slim and relies on hearsay and rumors, as someone born in the former Soviet Union, I couldn’t rule out that Stalin or some of his generals could hatch a wild plan like this. Of course, not being able to rule something out doesn’t mean it really happened and I’m not swayed to take this claim at what amounts to little more than face value.
There were also rumors of an idea for USSRs first manned lunar mission to detonate a nuclear warhead on the Moon as an ultimate act of saber rattling. For a group of people who think its a great idea to parade ICBMs down the center of Moscow, flanked by entire battalions of the army and enough military hardware to lay waste to a major city just for show, its not as far fetched a scheme as it may seem, especially to someone whos lived in the Soviet Union. But again, taking my cultural experiences aside, I cant say if there was ever such a plan. I certainly havent heard it discussed, even after many Soviet secrets were declassified and released to the public. Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t think a plan to nuke the Moon would just be tossed aside without so much as a mention.
But the failed Soviet plans for the Moon aren’t the primary focus of the documentary (sorry, but it’s only available in Russian). The question its creators really want to tackle is why NASA had to dismantle the Apollo program despite its success. They believe that despite the deeply political nature of the space race without which there would be no NASA today, it wasn’t just politics and pragmatism that ended lunar exploration. There was another far more influential force at work. Stay tuned… We’ll explore their ideas in the next post.