Thursday, November 29, 2012

Da Moon!

Gru wanted to – and did, at least temporarily – steal the Moon.

Back in 1958, the United States military had kind of a similar plan: They were going to send a nuclear bomb to the moon and detonate it.

It would not have blown up the moon, nor even have an explosion visible from Earth. But it might have intimidated the Soviet Union and initiated a space-based Cold War that, if anything else, would have offered us the chance of vacationing in refurbished Cold War Moon facilities after the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989.

So, both good and bad here. Mostly bad, of course.

CNN has a rather interesting article on the secret project, including the tidbit that science populist Carl Sagan worked on the project and blabbed about it on a job application when it was still classified as secret. The most interesting line from the article, at least from a writer’s point of view:

[Physicist Leonard] Reiffel [who led the effort] had some brilliant minds on his team. One of them was an up-and-coming graduate student named Carl Sagan. Sagan went on to become one of the world's most renowned astronomers, creating the book and popular TV series "Cosmos."

But after working on the moon program, Reiffel said, Sagan violated security when he mentioned the still-classified project on a job application. "He did formally break the classification status of the project", Reiffel said of Sagan, who subsequently died in 1996.

That last sentence made me laugh. I would not have written it that way because in some sinister minds (like my own) you could easily and erroneously draw the conclusion that Sagan’s death was somehow linked to his violation of the project’s classification, not the cancer that done him in.

Here’s something else that struck me as funny:

"We didn't want to clutter up the natural radioactivities of the moon with additional bits of radioactivity from the Earth," Reiffel said. The project was abandoned.

I’m sure environmentalists would be pleased to know that one of the motivators in scrubbing the project was that they did not want to introduce Earth-based radiation to the Moon, where it would have competed with radiation already appearing naturally in the environment.

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