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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Blowing up the Moon (again)

A few days ago, the Daily Telegraph ran a piece under the sensational heading “US planned to blow up a nuclear bomb on the Moon”. The strapline included the phrase “according to reports”, giving the reader the impression this was News when in fact it was nothing of the kind.

Exactly the same story, in greater detail, appeared in the January 2003 issue of UFO Magazine. Despite the cover date, this would have been on the newsstands in late November 2002 – exactly ten years before the Telegraph piece. It isn’t just that it was a similar story – it was exactly the same story. The Project designation (A119) and the name of the informant (Leonard Reiffel) are identical in both accounts. And the one in UFO Magazine is honest enough to admit it was old news even in 2002 – it ascribes Reiffel’s public revelation of the project to “14 May 2000”. The events themselves, of course, happened way back in 1958.

The reason I remember this is because I had a letter on the subject printed in the following issue of UFO Magazine. In retrospect, I’m not sure I got my facts right – but it’s still worth reproducing (see scanned image), if only for the editorial reply from the late and very much missed Graham Birdsall. “A respected physicist” is the nicest thing I’ve ever been called by someone who wasn’t after money!

The point I was trying to make was that Reiffel’s reference to a “mushroom cloud” suggested there was an atmosphere on the Moon. I don’t think this is necessarily true. While the classic image of the broad, flat-topped mushroom cloud requires interaction with an atmosphere, you would probably get something that could loosely be described as a “mushroom shape” even on an airless world like the Moon.

In any case, the letter was tongue-in-cheek – jumping on the bandwagon of saying “Look at all the things NASA is lying to us about”, which was the mainstay of UFO Magazine in those days. In reality, I firmly believe that any erroneous or contradictory statements made by NASA (or any other government organization) are far more likely to be due to the bungling incompetence of low-level officials than a coordinated top-level conspiracy.

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