By 3 News online staff
Embarrassed by the Soviets' victory in the race to be the first to space, the US planned to detonate an atom bomb on the Moon.
The US military's top secret 'Project A119' was designed to be a "show of strength" to intimidate the Russians, and serve as a "morale boost".
The plan was cancelled however due to fears it would endanger people on Earth if it failed. There were also concerns of contaminating the Moon with radioactive material.
Though the existence of the plan was first made public in 2000, over the last few days the story was been picked up by several news outlets after UK paper The Daily Mail reported on it.
The Russians successfully put Sputnik I into orbit in October 1957, followed by Sputnik II in November, several months before the US managed to launch their first satellite, Explorer I.
'Project A119' would have been carried out in 1959. An atom bomb was chosen because a more destructive hydrogen bomb would have been too heavy.
A young Carl Sagan worked on the project, and may have been the first to leak its existence by mentioning it in an academic fellowship application.