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What would happen if we dropped nukes on the moon?

The U.S. Air Force actually considered detonating a nuclear device on the moon in the 1950s. Known as Project A119, the single explosion would have had little impact on the Moon.

In a CNN interview, Leonard Reiffel, one of the physicists on the project, was asked what it would take to actually “do some damage” or even push the Moon out of orbit. He said that we don’t actually have enough nuclear weapons to get anywhere close to doing that. It would likely take something on the order of 10 trillion megatons of TNT to move the Moon, maybe 10 billion to do some serious damage.

The 70s television show Space: 1999 was built around the concept of a nuclear accident sending the Moon off into space. Of course, it was all very silly, and it just couldn’t happen like that.

We don’t really know enough about the Moon’s radioactivity. It’s exposed to cosmic rays and the Sun’s radiation, and there is no protection as with Earth. NASA sent the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2009, and one of its tasks is to characterize the radiation environment of the Moon. Detonating nuclear weapons would be unlikely to increase radiation levels to any great degree.

To be honest, it would be like throwing peanuts at a whale…

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