There’s a lot of batshit crazy technology in the field of aerospace research, and not all of it sees the green light. These are the ten most insane space programs that never happened.

10.) Silverbird


Designed for use by the Nazi Luftwaffe during World World II, the Silverbird spaceplane could’ve been America’s worst nightmare. It would carry bombs from Europe and drop them over America, specifically New York City, then continue on to a landing spot somewhere in Japan, all in one shot. The spaceplane would be launched on a two mile long rail track then propelled through the atmosphere by combined use of a rocket motor and a strategic application of air lift caused by atmospheric conditions in the stratosphere.

A crazy track-launched, rocket-propelled spaceplane with the capability of carrying an 8,000 pound bomb and traveling over 12000 miles in one go? It’s probably a good thing they were never able to perfect the design.


Suggested By: Green Pig, Photo Credit: via Wikipedia

9.) Soviet TMK Program


As a response to America’s lunar missions, Soviet scientists planned a space trip to perform a pass-by on Mars and Venus. A year later, those scientists took the plans a step further by adding a full-on Mars landing. Not only did these plans fall through, but the in-depth testing and research involved with the TMK project delayed the USSR’s attempts at a lunar landing.

Hey man, you can shoot for the stars Mars and Venus, but you might just end up shooting yourself in the foot.

Suggested By: As Du Volant, Photo Credit: KillOrDie via Wikipedia

8.) Space Elevator


There are many proposals for a space elevator floating around, and there’s a critical problem with just about all of the. Their cable would have to be constructed from a perfected carbon nanotube material. Since we don’t have such perfected carbon nanotubes, the space elevator concept can’t happen. The technology just isn’t there.

Maybe someday.


Suggested By: emilminty, Photo Credit: Liftport via Wikipedia

7.) One-Way Ticket To The Moon


The Soviets beat the U.S. at putting a person in orbit. After America finally did the same, our scientists started looking for other ways to leapfrog the Russians. The country began research to get an American to the moon before the Russians got there.

In 1962 at a meeting held at the Institute of Aerospace Sciences, Bell Aerosystems project engineer John M. Cord and company psychologist Leonard M. Seale unveiled their idea to get a man on the moon before the Soviets.

Unfortunately, they would have to leave him there.

The duo argued that without return equipment, it would take less time to develop and perfect all of the necessary technology for the trip. While the spaceman would be living on the moon, scientists could continue to develop another spacecraft that would be fully capable of making the trip there and back.


Hey, gotta do what ya gotta do to beat those damn commies.

Suggested By: leicester, Photo Credit: Bell Aerosystems Company/NASA via Wired

6.) Zambian Space Program

After Zambia became independent in 1964, the government felt the need to prove to the rest of the world that they were a real “big country”. To nudge shoulders and show other countries what Zambia was all about, they decided to start a space program to compete against the Soviets and the Americans.


Some of the more interesting and unique factors to the Zambian Space Program were their training procedures. To gain experience with the concept of free fall, these “astronauts in training” would swing on a rope, then have the rope cut from above them. And to get the trainees comfortable with the sensation of space travel, they would often use the “roll downhill in a 40 gallon oil drum” method.

Needless to say, the project never really got off the ground (pun very much intended).

Suggested By: crowmolly

5.) N1 Rocket


The N1 rocket would have been the spacecraft used for the Soviet lunar program and their planned flybys of Mars and Venus. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t go according to plan. The spacecraft was designed to use 30 different combustion engines on just its first stage. The Soviets lacked the necessary engine management technology and the system never worked properly. If only one engine went out, it could knock all the rest out of balance. Part of the trouble was that the project’s main designer, Sergei Korolov, died one year into its development.

All in all, the Soviet lunar project was a pretty big mess, especially after the N1’s big explosion. My colleague Michael Ballaban can tell us about that disaster.

The N1 seemed to adhere to the rule of “what goes up, most come down” more than any other in Newtonian physics, and shortly after lifting off from the launch pad it came right back down, crashing to earth and combusting.

It turns out a bolt had come loose and was sucked straight into an oxygen pump fueling one of the thirty little engines, which then promptly exploded, setting off a chain reaction.

The rocket exploded with the force of seven kilotons of TNT, equivalent to a small nuclear bomb. It remains one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history. The destruction was so vast, in fact, that it let the Americans know what the Soviet Union was up to when satellites photographed the wrecked launch pad. It took 18 months for the USSR to rebuild it. This time, they installed fuel filters.

Oh, and the entire thing was fueled by kerosene. It’s not quite a lamp, this thing.


Suggested By: Labcoatguy, Photo Credit: via Jalopnik

4.) Orion Project


The Orion Project was NASA’s plans for nuclear propulsion testing. Yes, a rocket powered by riding nuclear explosions.

Though the project could’ve potentially changed the future of space travel as we know it, Orion was shut down due to public health concerns. This kinda makes sense since its massive nuclear powered propulsion engines would’ve probably spewed out enough nuclear fallout to mutate half the wildlife of Antartica, one of their optional launch locations for the rocket.


Suggested By: Kerberos824, Photo Credit: NASA via Wikipedia

3.) Strategic Defense Initiative


The Strategic Defense Initiative or “Star Wars” was a plan made public during President Ronald Regan’s administration to protect the country from Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. It called for space-based laser systems as well as other air and ground based defense missiles to zap any ICBMs that might be launched by the USSR during the Cold War.

Though funding had initially been approved for this project by the U.S. Congress, much of the necessary technology was not yet developed. There were also arguments that such a hugely expensive system could further extend the arms race and overall shit show between the U.S. and the USSR during the Cold War.

Suggested By: Jcarr, Photo Credit: Department of Defense via Wikipedia

2.) Project Ithacus


Back in 1966 when Project Ithacus was proposed, the government was on some next level shit. It was basically an ICBM that launched into space carrying 1200 marines instead of a nuclear warhead.

The idea of rapidly deploying over a thousand marines anywhere in the world whenever necessary sounds like a good idea. But when you realize how much work it would take to strap troops into a gigantic rocket and send them through space to get to a battlefield, you can see how it doesn’t make sense.


Suggested By: As Du Volant, Photo Credit: NASA via Astronautix

1.) Project A119


After the U.S. government saw how the Soviets were able to hit the ground running in the space race, America was scrambling to figure out how to display toughness and competitive eagerness. And of course, there’s no better way to do that than drop a nuke on the moon.

Yes, there was a plan to nuke the moon. Seriously.

It was a PR exercise, essentially, designed to create a blast visible from earth—and Mother Russia.


Nothing quite says “Fuck you” like “Look at how we blew up part of the moon!”

Suggested By: JohnnyWasASchoolBoy, Photo Credit: Armor Research Foundation via Wikipedia


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