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Lunar secrets

by Andrew May

Published in UFO Magazine, February 2003

Dear Graham,

Your current issue includes a fascinating piece about a secret US project to explode a nuclear bomb on the Moon during the 1950s. Reading between the lines of the article, I'm beginning to wonder if it's a case of a small secret hiding a much bigger one.

Dr Leonard Reiffel, the scientist who led the project, is quoted as saying (among other things), "The Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large it would be visible on Earth." He uses the term "mushroom cloud" again later on, so there's no chance it was just a slip of the tongue.

Now, like Dr Reiffel I'm a physicist, and I'm well aware that a mushroom cloud is fundamentally an atmospheric phenomenon. The vertical stem of the mushroom is produced by the expanding fireball from the explosion, and something very similar would happen even on an airless world. But the characteristic flattened top of the mushroom occurs only when the gases reach a very specific layer in the atmosphere, known as the tropopause. If Dr Reiffel is on the level (and there's no reason to imagine he isn't, given what he's revealed already) then the Moon must have a tropopause - and, by extension, an atmosphere.

Put this revelation alongside your coverage, elsewhere in the same issue, of NASA's continuing shiftiness over anomalies in the lunar landing data, and it starts to look as though the American authorities know far more about the Moon than they've so far seen fit to divulge to the public.

Dr Andrew May

Copyright © 2003 Andrew May

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