Sep 01 201696 Funeral on the Moon, the Story of Fallen Astronaut

There is a statue on the moon. In 1971 the crew of Apollo 15 placed a small figurine and a plaque on the lunar surface to memorialize American and Soviet astronauts who had died in the pursuit of space exploration. The memorial, dubbed “Fallen Astronaut,” was meant to enshrine their memory in space. However, the artist who made the figurine itself, Paul Van Hoeydonck, had other ideas.

Van Hoeydonck did not see the statue as a memorial. Instead, he wanted to make a statue that represented all of humanity reaching for the stars. He also wanted to be known as the man who made the statue on the moon, and hoped to sell replicas of the work in his New York gallery. The public reaction to Van Hoeydonck’s attempt to commercialize space was mostly negative, and he never gained the fame or success that he thought the moon statue would bring him.

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Jan 21 201664 Yesterday’s Tomorrows

It’s always fun to look back on predictions about the future that were wrong. For instance, Victorian portrayals of the 20th and 21st century had everyone flying around in blimps and ornithopters, which did not exactly come to pass.

Looking back at past predictions is especially satisfying now because we are well into the 21st century. For decades, years that started with “20” (or even “199”) were simply vaguely futuristic. Now, they’re simply a date on the calendar. In this episode, we count through some of the most notable years in science fiction that have already happened from 1997 (Escape From New York) to 2001 (2001) and see how the year from pop culture lined up to the actual year that happened.

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Jul 09 201538 The Secret Plan to Nuke the Moon

In 1959 the United States had a secret plan to explode a nuclear weapon either on or near the surface of the moon. The plan was known as Project A119 and the hope was that a nuclear explosion on the moon would kick up a cloud of dust visible from the Earth, and would act as a demonstration of American power and technology. The project was shelved (obviously) and classified for years, and the only reason we know about it now is because Carl Sagan, who was involved with A119, let slip the existence of the plan to nuke the moon on a job application.

While it might sound absurd, the idea of a nuclear demonstration to awe the world was a common idea among scientists in the waning days of WWII and the early days of the Cold War. There were multiple proposals for detonations on desert islands or other, similar uninhabited areas to show off the power of nuclear weapons and, hopefully, impress America’s enemies into submission.

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Related Links:

A Study of Lunar Research Flights, Volume One

The Franck Report

The New York Times on Leonard Rieffel, the physicist who headed up Project A119.

And, it wasn’t just the US. There were also rumors that the Soviets, too, wanted to bomb the moon.