the secret moon plans of the cold war

Stalin wasn't the only world leader who was thinking about using the Moon as a springboard for a massive base able to strike anywhere on Earth with devastating consequences.

cold war moon base article

Long time readers might remember a post in which I took a skeptical stance on a rumored Soviet plan to fly a nuclear warhead to the surface of the Moon and detonate it in a show of strength. After laying this very public claim to the lunar surface, the next step would be to establish a lunar base which would be free to fire off nuke after nuke at the hapless targets below. Knowing how the Soviet government operated, it seems plausible to me that an idea such as this was actually conceived, but I thought that it seemed a bit too far fetched in reality and there should’ve been something about it in the declassified Soviet archives. Well, in the face of evidence for exactly the same kinds of projects being brainstormed in the U.S. at the same time, I have to admit that my conclusion was probably incorrect and it seems that paranoid, as well as great minds, also think alike…

I’m talking of course about the USAF’s projects A119 and Horizon which intended to detonate a nuclear bomb at the lunar terminator (the border between the light side and the dark site of the Moon), and deliver a military base assembly kit to the surface of our satellite after staking the radioactive claim. In other words, it was just like the Soviet plan for the lunar surface. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t know about A119 unless Carl Sagan made a brief mention of it when applying for an academic fellowship since has was a science adviser for the project and had to account for the kind of research work he did over his career. His mention was kept under wraps for decades until biographer Keay Davidson brought it up in his book about the scientist. But by then, the nations decided that rather to bomb the Moon, they should try to land humans on it and instead of the first alien nukes giving Earthlings a brief light show, we now have a legacy of landing on another world.

And here’s we should turn our attention to Project Horizon which sounds like any space enthusiast’s dream come true. The military was interested in building a base on the moon for intelligence gathering, PR, science, and creating a place to build and launch spacecraft for deep space exploration. Basically what we’re trying to do now with the Constellation program but without the outwardly stated military implications. The base itself was priced out to cost some $6 billion and would require in excess of 280 launches of the Saturn spacecraft, then in development, to deliver all the necessary cargo. The plan was to support a crew of 12 within just a year of the program’s start. Total weight of the materials to deliver? Over 750,000 pounds. Which by the way would include land mines. Probably in case there’s a sudden ambush from a Soviet lunar army hiding in a crater or something in that route, one would be lead to believe. And did I mention the whole thing was supposed to be assembled just just two men? How? The document doesn’t really specify.

Now, you might be wondering whether that $6 billion estimate was as good as the project planners claimed and the short answer to that is no. When the Apollo program actually wrapped up, it cost some $25.4 billion in the currency of the day which would be equivalent to $145 billion in 2007 dollars. But even if the military idea for a lunar base was ramped up to a cost of $400 billion in today’s cash and spent over about a decade, that staggering sum would still be a small fraction of what it took to bail out numerous Wall Street banks after they gorged themselves full of toxic assets, and would’ve created hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs for scientists and engineers. As odd as it may sound, Horizon could have actually been worth it…

# space // cold war / lunar base / military / nuclear weapons


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