Author Topic: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race  (Read 4103 times)

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« on: 09/24/2014 03:12 am »
http://thespacereview.com/article/2603/1

In space no one can hear you sigh
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, September 22, 2014

It used to be that weekly magazines like Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report were highly relevant, and even at slow times they made substantial contributions to national discussions with their cover stories. That era passed a while ago. Newsweek even stopped producing print copies, but has apparently restarted. Their most recent cover story is a doozy: “Dark Side of the Moon: The Hidden History of Cold War Star Wars” is filled with factual inaccuracies, lazy reporting, sloppy editing, and a rather warped sense of history.
Take a look at the caption for the article’s photo of President Kennedy that says Kennedy is holding up two fingers, while in the photo right above it he’s holding up only one.

Kurt Eichenwald’s article, which has the title “The Plan to Nuke the Moon and Other Cold War Plots Revealed in Secret Documents,” is about various Cold War space events, mostly from the 1940s to the early 1960s. The angle that Eichenwald has chosen is that the Cold War Space Race was a time when American military and intelligence officials came up with goofy, off-the-wall ideas. The cover art sets the tone, showing Yuri Gagarin surrounded by a circus of scribblings.

Eichenwald starts with a rather breathless account of the time that the CIA “kidnapped” a Soviet lunar spacecraft that was being transported from a science exposition and closely examined it before releasing it without the Soviets being any wiser. Even if you are not very familiar with the subject matter, a careful reading of the article will leave you wondering if an editor ever looked at it. For instance, in the second paragraph the author refers to “a Lunik space vehicle” and only one sentence later refers to it as a “missile.” Which was it, space vehicle or missile? Does the reporter know the difference? In actuality, it was a propulsion stage that sent early Soviet lunar spacecraft towards the Moon. (And lest you think this is an isolated incident of a Newsweek editor being asleep on the job, take a look at the caption for the article’s photo of President Kennedy that says Kennedy is holding up two fingers, while in the photo right above it he’s holding up only one.)

Offline kevin-rf

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8656
  • Overlooking the path Mary's little Lamb took..
  • Liked: 1125
  • Likes Given: 245
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #1 on: 09/24/2014 12:18 pm »
Sigh...

Just so you know, I passed it to a Bloomberg copy editor I know. Who knows, it may go viral ;)
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline simonbp

Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #2 on: 09/24/2014 02:01 pm »
I think at this point, Newsweek has a readership roughly equal to this website...

Offline kevin-rf

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8656
  • Overlooking the path Mary's little Lamb took..
  • Liked: 1125
  • Likes Given: 245
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #3 on: 09/24/2014 02:08 pm »
Please don't insult Chris that way, more than 5 people read NSF :D

btw. They have a "corrections" page, quite long, but I do not see any for the article in question. http://www.newsweek.com/corrections
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline kevin-rf

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8656
  • Overlooking the path Mary's little Lamb took..
  • Liked: 1125
  • Likes Given: 245
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #4 on: 09/24/2014 02:10 pm »
btw. They have an article titled "Serious Reporting Thriving on the Internet, Despite Predictions". How ironic, I bet Blackstar is rolling in his chair.

http://www.newsweek.com/serious-reporting-thriving-internet-despite-predictions-270554
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #5 on: 09/24/2014 04:17 pm »
A colleague checked the Bettmann/Corbis database and discovered that there are three photos there that have that same caption. In one of them Kennedy is holding up two fingers, the one we used in the TSR article (taken from the original Newsweek article) he is holding up only one, and the same is true for the third photo where Kennedy is also pointing with one finger. So obviously the mistake was made back in the early 1960s and preserved in the database (although it is also possible that Newsweek used an image with the original incorrect caption from their own database).

The relevant point is that it is obvious that the caption does not match the photo, but nobody at Newsweek caught that. Now mistakes happen, I make mistakes, we all make mistakes, even obvious ones. But when they start to pile up, you have to conclude that the editorial oversight was lacking. And as I noted in my article, even simple effort (picking up the phone and calling Jim Oberg) would have allowed the reporter to avoid many errors. Attitude, plus a lack of knowledge, plus laziness, plus a lack of oversight, is a recipe for problems.

If you want to see the photos, you can go here:

http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photos/collecti...

Use the search term: "President Kennedy holds up two fingers"

You will see the three photos that appear and I've attached below.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #6 on: 09/24/2014 04:19 pm »
btw. They have an article titled "Serious Reporting Thriving on the Internet, Despite Predictions". How ironic, I bet Blackstar is rolling in his chair.

http://www.newsweek.com/serious-reporting-thriving-internet-despite-predictions-270554

Eh, I've moved on. I have too short an attention span to...


Offline D_Dom

  • Global Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 497
  • Liked: 198
  • Likes Given: 112
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #7 on: 09/24/2014 10:31 pm »
I resemble that...
Space is not merely a matter of life or death, it is considerably more important than that!

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #8 on: 08/15/2018 05:55 pm »
Everything old is new again...

A Forbes reporter has just discovered the early Cold War studies of nuking the Moon:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinandrews/2018/08/06/this-is-the-story-of-how-america-once-thought-of-nuking-the-moon/#4187910830b7

That reporter refers to the A119 report, declassified in 2000, and a 2000 NY Times interview with the physicist. But "the secret Cold War plan to nuke the Moon" is a story that breathlessly circulates the internet every couple of years. It appeared in 2014:

https://www.newsweek.com/2014/09/26/plan-nuke-moon-and-other-cold-war-plots-revealed-secret-documents-271088.html

And in 2012:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2238242/Cold-War-era-U-S-plan-bomb-moon-nuclear-bomb-revealed.html

http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/28/u-s-had-plans-to-nuke-the-moon/

In 2000:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2000/may/14/spaceexploration.theobserver

In 1999:

https://books.google.com/books?id=TXDvAAAAMAAJ&hl=en

I think I've found other times that reporters suddenly discover this when it has been known for years.

Of course, I wrote about that here:

http://thespacereview.com/article/2603/1

I also wrote about basing nukes on the Moon here:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/882/1

« Last Edit: 08/15/2018 05:58 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #9 on: 08/15/2018 06:09 pm »
And a reminder of the point I made above that people on the internet "discover" the same things over and over again every few years, here is something I wrote back in 2010:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1565/1

As I noted, history doesn't echo, it reverbs...

That was about reports that China was going to send humans to the Moon. You can find that story has bounced around for years.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2018 06:24 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Kansan52

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1197
  • Hutchinson, KS
  • Liked: 388
  • Likes Given: 427
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #10 on: 08/15/2018 06:17 pm »
Your 2014 article summed it up. And reinforces why NSF is such a good source. Journalism.

Online Archibald

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2594
  • Liked: 477
  • Likes Given: 1096
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #11 on: 08/16/2018 03:46 pm »
I'm reminded of Sisyphus, that greek guy that was punished by the gods, the following way.  He had to roll a huge, heavy rock on a steep slope, again and again; and when he nearly reached the top of the slope, the rock fell down at the bottom, and he had to start again.

Life is unfair (Malcolm in the middle).
...you have been found guilty by the elders of the forum of a (imaginary) vendetta against Saint Elon - BLAAASPHEMER !

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #12 on: 08/16/2018 03:54 pm »
To be fair, the Forbes article is decent. It also references to the 2000 NY Times article. So it's not the typical case of hype that implies that the reporter is the first person to discover this and is making it known FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME!

Of the many things that annoy me, I would add reporters or "historians" (deliberate use of air bunnies) who act like because the information is new to them, it is therefore new. The Newsweek article is a perfect case of this, where the reporter had a whole bunch of stories that have actually been publicly known for decades, but acted like they were all being revealed for the first time, while simultaneously ignoring a number of relatively recent revelations about the Cold War space race.

Online Archibald

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2594
  • Liked: 477
  • Likes Given: 1096
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #13 on: 08/16/2018 06:55 pm »
Maybe it is because the concept of nuking the Moon is
a) borderline insane
b) completely stupid

There are a crapload of criminally stupid projects like this - Project PACER, Project Plowshare, Project A119, Project PLUTO, and so many others.

Reading stuff about these projects and Edward Teller fascination for his beloved nukes,  I'm reminded of a child stealing a hammer  or matches. After  leveling and burning every that stand, he feels like the all-powerful emperor of the entire known universe.

Edward Teller, and how he wanted to use the bomb, for everything: the Simpsons really nailed that state of mind in the scene below (from Insane clown poppy, the one where Krusty find he has a daughter).



Quote
"It's gonna take a lot of fireworks to clean this mess up"


I have this vision of Project Plowshare going bad, the Soviets mistaking the civilian nuke for a declaration of war. Then Edward Teller watches the world explodes in nuclear apocalypse, saying to himself "It's gonna take a lot of nuclear bombs to clean this mess up"
« Last Edit: 08/21/2018 03:45 pm by Archibald »
...you have been found guilty by the elders of the forum of a (imaginary) vendetta against Saint Elon - BLAAASPHEMER !

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #14 on: 08/16/2018 08:29 pm »
Maybe it is because the concept of nuking the Moon is
a) borderline insane
b) completely stupid

There are a crapload of criminally stupid projects like this - Project PACER, Project Plowshare, Project A119, Project PLUTO, and so many others.

I think writers (and their editors) just love the concept of a headline "Nuke the Moon" even though it's been done before.

Watch the documentary "The Atomic Bomb Movie" (also known as "Trinity and Beyond") and you get a sense of the fact that during the latter forties and throughout the 1950s nuclear weapons scientists and engineers tended to view nukes as tools, or devices as much as weapons. A lot of the tests were simply engineering. So they wanted to figure out how much blast a bridge could take and their solution was to build a bridge and then detonate a nuke overhead. Ditto for houses, ships, planes, etc. They were doing lots and lots of tests that were not proving the weapon design but measuring weapons effects. It was a rather casual attitude toward popping these things off. And so in that environment it was nothing special about shooting one at the Moon to create a crater or make an observation from Earth. No big deal.

It all looks pretty crazy in retrospect.

Offline thammond

  • Member
  • Posts: 18
  • Liked: 2
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #15 on: 08/17/2018 04:19 pm »
Maybe it is because the concept of nuking the Moon is
a) borderline insane
b) completely stupid

There are a crapload of criminally stupid projects like this - Project PACER, Project Plowshare, Project A119, Project PLUTO, and so many others.

I think writers (and their editors) just love the concept of a headline "Nuke the Moon" even though it's been done before.

Watch the documentary "The Atomic Bomb Movie" (also known as "Trinity and Beyond") and you get a sense of the fact that during the latter forties and throughout the 1950s nuclear weapons scientists and engineers tended to view nukes as tools, or devices as much as weapons. A lot of the tests were simply engineering. So they wanted to figure out how much blast a bridge could take and their solution was to build a bridge and then detonate a nuke overhead. Ditto for houses, ships, planes, etc. They were doing lots and lots of tests that were not proving the weapon design but measuring weapons effects. It was a rather casual attitude toward popping these things off. And so in that environment it was nothing special about shooting one at the Moon to create a crater or make an observation from Earth. No big deal.

It all looks pretty crazy in retrospect.

Maybe the ultimate was project Orion which would use over a thousand atomic bombs detonated one after another a specific distance behind a spacecraft in a nuclear pulse propulsion mode for interplanetary spaceflight.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11583
  • Liked: 3140
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #16 on: 08/17/2018 05:43 pm »
Maybe the ultimate was project Orion which would use over a thousand atomic bombs detonated one after another a specific distance behind a spacecraft in a nuclear pulse propulsion mode for interplanetary spaceflight.

Agreed. Orion is pretty nutty. It's hard to see how anybody could think that detonating a large number of nukes in the atmosphere is a good idea.

I've always suspected that there are some fundamental flaws with the concept that would show up with a more in-depth engineering analysis.

Offline Proponent

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5648
  • Liked: 1173
  • Likes Given: 710
Re: The crazy whacky Cold War Space Race
« Reply #17 on: 08/18/2018 04:05 am »
Orion is pretty nutty. It's hard to see how anybody could think that detonating a large number of nukes in the atmosphere is a good idea.

By the end of the program, the plan was to put it into Earth orbit with chemical propulsion before setting off the nukes.

Tags: