Nuking the moon, and 5 more insane space missions that never happened


NASA outer space mission control


Over the last 50 years, we’ve set foot on the moon, “roved” the Red Planet, and have even hurled a probe into interstellar space — but those are just the missions that succeeded. Through the decades, there have been plenty of strange projects proposed by spacefaring nations, and the vast majority of them never even reach the launch pad. To give you a taste of just how crazy some of these projects are, we’ve gathered up some of the most ridiculous of the bunch. So without further ado, here are six of the weirdest space missions ever considered.

A blimp on Titan

The Cassini probe gave mankind its fist look at the Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. It is the only moon in our solar system known to have an atmosphere and researchers believe it may even host life . To prepare for future missions to Titan, NASA proposed a series of conceptual designs including a a small, helium-filled dirigible, known as the Aerover Blimp.

The zeppelin would utilize three propellers to circumnavigate Titan every one or two weeks. Aerover would be about 33-feet in length and 8-feet in diameter, or — as JPL rather oddly specified — “roughly the length and height of a stretch limousine.” The design calls for a small inflatable wheel along the bottom to cushion the blimp when landing on an array of rocky terrains and allow the unit to float on oceans of liquid methane. According to JPL, the concept is still under consideration, so the notion of piloting a remote-controlled blimp somewhere in the cosmos is still in play. At least for now.

Nuking the moon

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Some of most bizarre space missions were a result of the hysteria and seemingly bottomless military bankrolling during the Cold War. In 1957, the successful launch of Sputnik sent the top US military brass into panic mode. Seeing as communist world domination was the next logical step after the achievement, the US Air Force decided it needed to flex its own muscles to save face — and the best way to do this was obviously to nuke the moon. As the saying goes: If you can’t beat ’em, irrationally nuke something … anything.

This program, known as Project A119, remained a secret for more than 40 years until Leonard Reiffel, a physicist who worked on the project, made these mission details public, stating that at the time, the “Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large it would be visible on Earth.” Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and the Air Force put its nuclear toys away, thankfully setting its sights on more pragmatic ambitions — like putting humans on the moon.

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