Photo: AP

It’s no secret that the United States has a long-running dream to establish a base on the moon. Thirty years ago, the CIA really thought it’d be cool—with one top official saying it’d be worth it “because everyone looks at the moon and will be constantly reminded that a US base is there.” Cool.

The theoretical moon base was highlighted earlier today by JPat Brown, the executive editor of MuckRock, and it gushes with the earnest excitement about the potential opportunity to brag to the world.

The memo was intended for then-Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates about a recent meeting he apparently had with NASA. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the entire scenario exudes with Cold War paranoia that’s familiar to the era.


Gates had spoken with NASA’s then-administrator, Jim Fletcher, who conveyed “his concern over the possibility of a major Soviet space initiative in 1992 — the 75th anniversary of the Revolution — that might have a dramatic impact comparable to Sputnik in 1957,” Gates wrote in a memo to the CIA’s director of national intelligence.

To counter Gates concerns, he raised the specter of establishing a permanent moon base, an initiative that would have “tremendous scientific and strategic significance,” he wrote.


Apparently Gates pitch made the rounds, and it prompted the CIA’s Director of Scientific and Weapons Research to boast in a memo that a moon base would provide “great scientific benefits.”

Then, the research director said, think about the optics.

“It also will have some ‘spectacular’ view,” the memo says, “because everyone looks at the moon and will constantly be reminded that a US base is there.”


Imagine the Cold War pissing match that would’ve emerged: “Oh, you have a moon base? Well, we got to Mars.” “That so? Well we have a moon base. We’re on the moon.”

Unrelated, sort of, but I’d never go to the moon. I’m fine with just looking at it.