Project A119

Last Updated: December 28, 2002

As detailed elsewhere on this website, during 1958 and 1959 the US Air Force studied project A119 which called for the explosion of a nuclear weapon on the surface of the Moon. This project remained secret until 2000, when Leonard Reiffel, a former scientist of the Illinois Institute of Technology revealed its existence. 

One report (AFSWC TR-59-39) was produced by the Armour Research Foundation of the Illinois Institute of Technology on the scientific aspects of the project, and I was able to obtain its first volume from the Kirtland AFB FOIA office. 
This volume is now available in PDF version by clicking on the cover at left. (NOTE: the second volume is apparently unavailable either from Kirtland AFB and the Illinois Institute of Technology) 

In fact, the report reveals very little on the A119 project and the main reason of its interest is that it provides an overview of lunar science at the very early days of lunar exploration. 
Some parts make for a good reading even today. Chapter IV in particular, details the knowledge to be gained from seismic studies on the surface on the Moon. Chapter VIII, on the possible presence of organic matter on the Moon, betrays the association of a young Carl Sagan with the project. 

As a final remark, it is worth noting that the report does not carry any "secret" marking!

Two images from the Reiffel report:
A cutaway of the proposed lunar seismometer, used to detect seismic waves from the explosion. The design is similar to the Ranger Mark II lunar seismometer of the Sixties
The effects of irradiation on the lunar surface.


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