The secret project, called “A Study of Lunar Research Flights”, as well as “Project A119” was never carried out but initially intended to intimidate the Soviet Union after their launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, which demonstrated their technological power, the Daily Mail reports.
The sight of a magnificent nuclear flash from Earth was meant to terrify the Soviet Union and boost US confidence, physicist Leonard Reiffel, 85, told the Associated Press. The nuclear device would have been launched from a missile from an unknown location. It would have ignited upon impact with the moon, causing a massive explosion that was visible from Earth.
The detonation would have been the result of an atom bomb, since a hydrogen bomb was too heavy for a missile to carry the 238,000 miles to the moon.
Astronomer Carl Sagan was responsible for some of the calculations that could cause the nuclear detonation.