The Artemis Missions
NASA announced recently that in 2024 humanity will be returning to the Moon in an attempt to establish a sustainable relay station called the Gateway. This moveable orbiting station will provide supplies and act as a halfway point between the Moon and Earth allowing for an easier and more effective lunar landing. NASA plans to extract water from the Moon’s interior to purify into drinking water, fuel and breathable oxygen to help sustain those on the lunar surface in their efforts to assemble a fully operational and permanent base. It’s true that this is going to be the first fully realised attempt to establish a lunar base, but it is not the first time the USA has considered an outpost there.
Cold War Worries
In 1959, 10 years before the Apollo landing and at the height of the Cold War, the United States’ cosmic endeavours were entrusted to the Army, Navy and Air Force departments. Constantly wary of Soviet attack and perpetually reminded of Soviet supremacy in space, the United States military commissioned a study into the idea of a lunar outpost in order to beat the Soviets to the punch and in order to establish American control of a potentially crucial missile placement. Then Vice President Lyndon B Johnson stated that it was paramount that the USA did not have to “look up to a communist moon”. On June 8th 1959 the Army Ballistic Missile Agency drew up a report titled “Project Horizon, A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment of a Lunar Military Outpost”.
The report outlined the logistics and cost of the project, which was estimated to be around $6 Billion. Naturally, the Eisenhower administration rejected this offer due to the exorbitant cost of the project and shortly afterwards the USA’s spacefaring responsibilities were bequeathed to the civilian organisation NASA, and the project was dead in the water. That is not to say that we cannot learn anything from this project if we are to successfully return to the Moon in an extended capacity.
Looking To The Horizon
Project Horizon was a 3 volume report, covering everything from habitation in dugout underground bunkers to the possible invention of guns able to function in zero gravity. The weapons portion of the report is particularly fascinating as it details the US Army’s investigations into development of ray guns, atomic powered planes and perhaps most fantastically a “Death ray”. This death ray was purported to use focused beams of gamma radiation fired from an accelerator in order to kill a person. Publicly and officially this project, gamma guns and all, ceased development after the financially conscious Eisenhower vetoed it, but that has not stopped fringe theorists from believing otherwise. Naturally, funding and building a base on the Moon is a herculean undertaking, and one that would be hard to conceal from a financial standpoint and logistically speaking would have been nigh inconceivable in the 1950s. Not impossible to conceal however, as the United States Department of Defence has an estimated $50 billion a year in their black budget.
This estimate of $50 billion comes from a Washington Post article written based on information from famed whistleblower Edward Snowden, and in the 7 years since the article’s publication this number may well have risen significantly. Whether the billions of dollars squirreled away in these black budgets is used to fund a secret Lunar base is anyone’s guess, but it is hard to believe that the US would give up dreams of a Moon base that easily, especially when their early lunar exploits were headed by none other than former Nazi Wernher Von Braun, who was known to have a fascination with the Moon and about whom there are many conspiracy theories.
The idea of a Nazi Moon base has been floated repeatedly since the end of World War 2, and while these theories may hold little actual weight the fact that Von Braun was in charge of German wartime rocketry and later the USA’s space based exploits is hard to ignore and provides considerable fuel for fringe theorists and conspiracy realists everywhere.
Indeed, there are those that question the transparency and actual intentions of NASA to begin with, with many positing that they faked the Moon landings. Even if the landings themselves were authentic it is no secret that NASA used doctored footage to promote the event which means that at the very least NASA has deceived the public before and may be deceiving the public currently if indeed a Moon base exists already. If one thing has been learned from Project Horizon however, it is that the financial burden cannot fall entirely on the taxpayer.
The next NASA Moon mission is going to be partly privatised, a move which allows for significant freedom and less explanation as to why Americans are paying for such a seemingly impossible mission. Perhaps the biggest issue of Project Horizon was the expectation that the US Government, particularly under Eisenhower, would approve such a risky project. From a military and scientific standpoint, Project Horizon would have been invaluable for ensuring American dominance over the USSR at the time, and one can not help but wonder whether the project truly was cancelled at all.