Lunar Colonies and Nuking the Moon: Motivational Factors Behind the American Conquest of the Moon
In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union embarked on the greatest technological race the world has ever seen. Sparked by the advent of nuclear weapons, the Space Race pitted American and Soviet scientists against each other in a struggle to achieve superiority in outer space. However, when the Soviets expanded their lead with the launch of several lunar probes, American officials feared their counterparts were planning a militarization of the moon. As this was considered, officials began to believe that the nation which controlled the moon would have an invaluable advantage in the Cold War. In light of this, this essay first analyzes newspaper responses to early satellite launches to demonstrate how the Soviet lead in space technology fostered serious security concerns in the United States. It then investigates declassified official documents to show how U.S. officials perceived the moon as a Cold War arena in which they could prove their nation’s technological and military superiority. Even though the moon bases and lunar nuclear detonations as suggested by these documents never occurred, the perception of the moon as the ultimate proving grounds for U.S. technological and military superiority remained, which continually fuelled support for the Apollo program.
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