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The moon has always been an intimate part of humanity’s existence.
You can see it from anywhere on earth and the effect
that it’s had on our planet and culture is beyond significant
But hypothetically, what would happen to us if we destroyed the whole thing?
In 1958 the Soviet Union was beating America in the race to space.
In response the United States developed a plan called Project A119.
Which involved detonating a nuclear bomb on the moon’s surface.
Knowing the explosion would be visible to people worldwide,
the US government believes project A119
would provide both a morale boost to the
American people and a show of force to intimidate the Soviet Union
Thankfully the plan was scrapped in favor
of landing actual people on the moon
But nuclear weapons wouldn’t really be enough to destroy the moon anyway.
To even come close, we would have to detonate
an explosive up to several billion times more powerful than
the entire nuclear arsenal of the world.
Which means that destroying the moon is currently impossible.
But assuming that we developed some amazing destructive technology
in the future and annihilate the moon,
what would happen to us here on Earth? First,
if the moon shattered into tiny little pieces
they might eventually coalesce
into a brilliant ringed system around our planet
Fragments of the moon would frequently rain down
onto the Earth’s surface like meteorites
but not as destructive.
While some meteorites hit Earth at speeds of over 100 kilometers per second
these lunar fragments would only be traveling at a fraction
of that, around 8 kilometers per second
so their damage could be pretty bad, but not entirely catastrophic.
Without the moon obscuring light from less bright objects,
more stars would be visible
from Earth’s surface and night skies would be significantly brighter
which would hopefully be a consolation for not being able to witness a solar eclipse ever again.
Of course without the moon,
the tidal forces on the world’s oceans and lakes would drop dramatically as well
Tides wouldn’t completely go away
because the Sun also exerts a tiny force on them,
but they would drop to about 25% of their current levels.
Surfing as a sport would be severely less cool and
coastal communities would have to adapt to lives
with a far smaller tides than usual. However,
perhaps the most catastrophic
effect that would happen without a moon
would be the extreme change in Earth’s axial tilt.
Earth spins on its axis currently at 23.4 degrees.
Over a period of tens of thousands
of years however that tilt varies between 22.1 degrees to 24.5 degrees.
The moon acts as a stabilizing force
on this tilt keeping it between these values
But without it this stability would be lost forever.
Earth’s tilt could exceed 45 degrees at times
in this scenario spinning on its side.
This would be very weird to get used to over time,
because the poles wouldn’t necessarily always be cold places
and the equator wouldn’t necessarily always be a warm place.
Imagine the extreme changes that would happen
if all the ice in Antarctica
melted and exposed a new continent open to human settlement
or if the equator began to be a
region that got regular snow and ice of their own.
Ice ages would hit different parts of the planet
at different times every few thousands of years
but that’s the thing,
these changes wouldn’t be immediate and you
wouldn’t notice much of a change in your lifetime
But fast-forward maybe 5,000 years
into the future and Earth could be totally unrecognizable,
which in a geological timeframe is basically instant.
Sure, moon fragments would probably
rain down to our surface and cause some damage
and the severe reduction in tides would be weird
for some people to get used to,
but if the moon were to be destroyed
it would not cause an instant apocalypse.
The real damage to our planet
wouldn’t be obvious until far into the future
Perhaps the most terrible part
about destroying the moon for us in the present,
would be robbing us of our stepping-stone out into the rest of the universe.
Fate and circumstance gave civilization
on Earth an incredible gift in the moon
A practice test nearby to home,
for space missions and a natural launch pad into the rest of the solar system.
Without it, this natural advantage would be permanently lost,
but thankfully since we live in reality
and we won’t actually destroy it
we may take advantage of it again soon.
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