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Given current capabilities, is it possible for a missile launched from the surface of the Earth to impact the surface of the Moon?

I would imagine the same "rocket" used send stuff to the ISS could be redeployed (adding explosive, etc). All you really might need is for something to escape Earth safely.

Context: Humans are expected to establish bases on the moon at some point. Just like air defense systems on Earth, you might expect any base at the moon to have similar defense systems, particularly given the obvious vulnerabilities that a moon base would imply (costly, isolated, limited supplied, etc).

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    $\begingroup$ You know that we have been to the Moon and we keep sending probes there, right? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ I think they might mean ready made missiles, for immediate use. Like, not us being able to construct that, but just pulling something we already have out of storage and getting it launched in matter of hours. I might be wrong though. @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica $\endgroup$ – Failus Maximus Jan 23 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ Existing depressed trajectory ICBMs should have enough delta-V to reach the Moon with a useful payload -- they reach very close to orbit (that's the "depressed trajectory" that makes them faster to target than a minimum-energy launch) while carrying a heavy MIRV bus. Whether they can be retargeted and the payload lightened enough to do that job, in a limited time, is another question -- and should be asked as one. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jan 23 at 13:19
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Of course it's "possible" -- proof case, rockets have been sent to the Moon for decades (first flyby was around 1959, as I recall, impact in 1959 or 1960, and those were launched with the same boosters that launched Mercury orbital missions). You don't even need a warhead; targeting capability of a late generation ICBM with a chunk of concrete replacing the nuke will give an effective kinetic kill missile (at least against targets that can't dodge). Add a tiny charge to fragment the kill mass a kilometer or two before impact, and you get a "space shotgun" that will still do the job and require less sophisticated targeting (1960s vintage ought to be sufficient).

There is no effective defense against kinetic kill missiles, other than the defenses that would normally be in place against meteoroids. Your kinetic kill mass, however, is thousands of times the size of the objects meteoroid shielding is designed to absorb, and will tend to punch straight through.

In other words, the capability to destroy a Lunar base with missiles fired from Earth has existed since before Space: 1999 ran on TV.

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    $\begingroup$ I must add that just to fall on the Mun from Earth surface you need less deltaV (and thus smaller missile) than to achive Earth orbit (about 8 km/s against 10 - it will be more like Moon impacting our missile ). Falling into exact point is harder, but not much harder (about +0,5-1,5 km/s) $\endgroup$ – ksbes Jan 23 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @ksbes, you don't reach the Moon if don't leave Earth gravity influence, and that is well behind Earth orbit. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jan 23 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica - I suspect that what ksbes meant was that orbit requires both the energy to leave the surface and then a lot of lateral momentum to go fast enough that you keep missing as you try to fall back to earth, $\endgroup$ – Willk Jan 23 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk a direct translunar injection has negligible savings over one that stops in LEO first (<100m/s delta-V) and imposes rather more strict limits on where and when you can launch. Relevant space.SE post. It'll certainly take you more than 8km/s delta-V to get to the moon. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Jan 23 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica This is actually correct, because you can fall into the Moon's gravity well by going high, rather than fast. The other thing you save by launching direct is time -- though it's a matter of an hour to a couple hours compared to a single parking orbit. Also, for minimum delta-V, you only have two launch windows per day, one with higher dV requirement than the other (because you have to match the Moon's orbital plane). $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jan 23 at 13:10

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