Posted by: movieotaku | April 13, 2007

Nuclear explosion on the moon

The opening of Space: 1999 is pretty memorable in the annals of SFTV. Moon Base Alpha, humanity’s permanent colony on the moon and nuclear waste dump, is rocked by an explosion on the “dark side of the moon”. The nuclear waste dump there went critical creating an enormous explosion that flung the moon from her orbit. The series then follows this lone moon as it cruises through the galaxy looking for desperately needed resources, a way home or a new place to live.I remember once asking my Grade 9 science teacher if a nuclear explosion could fling the Moon from its orbit. The entire class snickered because they knew why I asked, and in fact, they all wanted to know the answer to. I’ll never forget my science teacher’s answer: “An explosion that big would pulverize the moon.”

Now, first off: there is no “dark side of the moon”. Think about it. There’s a far side of the moon that we never see, but the moon orbits around the Earth and every square inch of it gets light (except some deep craters on the Moon’s south pole).

Secondly: yes, a nuclear waste dump can in theory go critical and go boom, but you’d need an incompetent waste dump manager (which isn’t a stretch in this case) and a bizarre accident. The yield would be quite difficult to predict because unrefined used nuclear fuels are so riddled with impurities that accurately predicting yield is impossible, but given it makes a really big boom, could the Moon withstand such an explosion?

Thirdly: If you think about the kind of energy needed to launch the Moon from the Earth’s orbit, you’d quickly end up with a very big and very scary number. Doing a back of the envelope calculation, I got the energy equivalent of about 200 000 000 megatons of TNT just to move the moon. That’s assuming 100% of the energy was used to move the Moon. Could the Moon withstand that kind of explosion and survive? I seriously doubt it.

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Responses

  1. Addendum: How would the -Earth- survive that kind of explosion in such close orbit?

  2. Considering they entered a new solar system pretty well every episode, the entire moon must have been blasted away at something like 0.99c – I won’t even begin to try and calculate what sort of energy would be needed for that, let alone the improbability of keeping the moon, moonbase alpha and everybody/everything on it in one piece during the process.

  3. i think you need to rethink this.
    a 1 pound blow will move the Moon.
    it will just not move it enough to matter.

    an it did not have to be one big explosion, but a continous series of small ones, like a pulse jet or and Orion space craft.


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