An interview with a former US Air Force physicist has come up with the astonishing claim that America planned to set off a nuclear bomb on the Moon as the ultimate display of technical and military might.

Leonard Reiffel, a former US Air Force physicist, made the claim in an old interview recently republished by CNN, in which he claims the US wanted to detonate a nuke on the Moon to create a flash visible from Earth that would send a shiver down the spines of those evil, Cold War-era Ruskies.

The plan, put into action in 1958, was designed as a reaction to the Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik orbiter, and wasn't just about showing off the power of the American's missile programme. It would've also gained information about possible future "space warfare" uses, with the US military of the day obviously worrying that by the 1970s the Americans would be fighting World War III against the Russians in space. Using nuclear missiles.

Thankfully that never happened and the only really useful thing to ever come out of the space race was memory foam mattresses. [CNN via The Register]