US considers nuking the moon

Honestly, this isn’t our day for joke entries. In this next item the U.S. Air Force is considering nuking the moon. (Aren’t we in a bit of a fiscal jam?). Slate reports it thus:

“The U.S. Air Force considered detonating a nuclear device on the moon during the late 1950s. In a recent interview with CNN, physicist Leonard Reiffel, who worked on the project, explained that the single explosion would have been “microscopic” with little impact on the moon. But what if it had been bigger—do we have enough nuclear weapons to push the moon out of orbit?

“Not even close. Depending on where the detonation happened, sending the moon careening away from Earth would take somewhere between 10 billion and 10 trillion megatons of TNT. The most powerful nuclear device ever detonated, the Soviet Union’s “Tsar Bomba,” yielded the energy equivalent of 50 megatons of TNT. The combination of every nuclear device ever tested represents just over 500 megatons of TNT worth of energy, and the current nuclear arsenal of the world could produce less than 7,000 megatons. In other words, to move the moon out of its orbit, humanity would have to strike it in precisely the right location with a force 1.5 million times greater than our collective nuclear arsenal. (And that’s assuming that every joule of energy from the warheads would be transferred to the moon’s motion—an absolute impossibility.)

“The moon is constantly edging away from us, though, without any human intervention. The moon’s pull drags a portion of the Earth’s water out of its natural position, creating bulges at each end of the planet. As Earth rotates, these bulges exert a force on the moon, dragging it through orbit and adding to the moon’s kinetic energy. As the moon gains energy, its orbit grows ever larger. On average, the moon floats 3 or 4 centimeters farther away every year.”

For more of the story, see: “Goodnight Moon” in Slate

 

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2012/11/nuking_the_moon_how_many_warheads_would_it_take_to_push_the_moon_out_of.html

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