In the years before the first lunar landing, the United States was lagging a bit behind in the Space Race. The Soviets had both the first satellite and the first human in space, while the United States had two thumbs and an asshole and that was about it. The U.S. realized that it would need something truly grand to one-up Captain Plinko and his Kosmonaut Armada, and that turned out to be the moon landing. But the lunar landing was the second draft of the plan; the first draft, as usual, was a bit nukier.
A whole lot nukier, actually.
Project A119, or “A Study of Lunar Research Flights”, was a plan to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the Terminator, which is what John Connor would have done if “teaching it how to love” didn’t play out in T2. Wait, sorry—The “Terminator” in this case refers to the dividing line between the dark and light side of the moon.
A large explosion on the Terminator line would put the Sun behind the mushroom cloud, making the explosion visible with the naked eye from Earth. Presumably this is because the scientists in question were using prison logic: If you don’t want to end up somebody’s man-wife, you gotta kill the first random guy you see and make everybody else think you’re crazy.
Fortunately, the United States came down off their explosion high and realized that nuking an orbiting planetary body for no particular reason might cross the line between “illustrating our technical prowess” and “cartoonish supervillainy,” so they scrapped the plan and sent Neil Armstrong up to land on the bastard instead.
[5 Certifiably Insane Cold War Projects]