A secret project named ‘A Study of Lunar Research Flights’ – or ‘Project A119’ was devised by American military chiefs in the hope that the Soviet Union would be intimidated by viewing the nuclear flash from Earth. According to physicist Leonard Reiffel, who was involved in the project, the main aim was to provide a morale boost to the US after the Russians successfully launched Sputnik in 1957.
As reported by The Sun, the US would have used an atom bomb, because a hydrogen bomb would have been too heavy. The planning reportedly included calculations by astronomer Carl Sagan, who was then a young graduate.
Many officials opposed the idea as the explosion would have an adverse effect on Earth should the explosion fail.
The project documents were kept secret for nearly 45 years, and the US government has never formally confirmed its involvement in the study.
In July 1969, the US finally won the Space Race against the Soviet Union, with Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon.