It was hypothesized at the time, the radiation might provide a defensive shield above the U.S. against Soviet nukes, but aside from the light show, it ended up frying many of our satellites. The radiation took 10 years to dissipate, which made study of our natural radiation belts, the Van Allen belts, problematic during that period.
Back in the summer of 1962, the U.S. blew up a hydrogen bomb in outer space, some 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean. It was a weapons test, but one that created a man-made light show that has never been equaled — and hopefully never will:
Abby and Robbie Martin discuss nuclear weapons: living in a perpetual Cold War mentality, MAD, stockpiling, labs and mismanagement, how nuclear fear and control underpin US imperialism; the manufactured GOP debate on contraception as a distraction from real issues; Obama’s drone warfare and domestic drone surveillance; the complacency of party loyalists and their approval of Obama’s continuation of Bush policies; Iran war propaganda: the political establishment and corporate press trumping up the war drum to instill fear and justify pre-emptive warfare against Iran and Syria.
For more than a decade they toiled in the strange, boxy-looking building on the hill above the municipal airport, the building with no windows (except in the cafeteria), the building filled with secrets.
They wore protective white jumpsuits, and had to walk through air-shower chambers before entering the sanitized “cleanroom” where the equipment was stored.
They spoke in code.
Few knew the true identity of “the customer” they met in a smoke-filled, wood-paneled conference room where the phone lines were scrambled. When they traveled, they sometimes used false names.
At one point in the 1970s there were more than 1,000 people in the Danbury area working on The Secret…
Well, there it is folks. Plain as day: Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap to Ruin” austerity program sh*tcanned the U.S. Spaceshuttle program and left us dependent upon the charity of ex-KGB chief Vladimir Putin.
It’s true. Now without an independent space program of our own, we’ll be at the tender mercies of the apparatchiks in Moscow to support our telecommunications satellite infrastructure.
Now I don’t have definitive proof yet that Paul Ryan is a sleeper agent for Uncle Vanya, but all signs point to yes. In debt ceiling talks this week his lot are trying to force American-born grandmothers to give up their cat food money in order to support the vodka habits of his Wall Street buddies like Frenchman “Fabulous” Fab Torre.
io9 and CONELRAD Adjacent detail a broadcast of the Ed Sullivan Show that “scared the hell out of kids” when a short animation was aired on 27 May 1956. Peter and Joan Foldes’ cartoon, A Short Vision, depicts a nuclear apocalypse, showing the faces of men and animals melting off, the audience off guard when Sullivan shared no warning but this introduction:
“Just last week you read about the H-bomb being dropped. Now two great English writers, two very imaginative writers – I’m gonna tell you if you have youngsters in the living room tell them not to be alarmed at this ‘cause it’s a fantasy, the whole thing is animated – but two English writers, Joan and Peter Foldes, wrote a thing which they called ‘A Short Vision’ in which they wondered what might happen to the animal population of the world if an H-bomb were dropped. It’s produced by George K. Arthur and I’d like you to see it. It is grim, but I think we can all stand it to realize that in war there is no winner.”
One of the secret projects discussed in Annie Jacobson’s new Area 51 book is Project Orion, an ambitious 1950’s-1960’s era attempt to develop a nuclear fission-propelled spacecraft capable of interplanetary travel. Like many of the Cold War aeronautics projects developed at Area 51 and related test sites, it was way ahead of its time. According to Jacobs, however, when ARPA and the USAF took over the project, they had a far more Strangelovian vision in mind:
“From high above Earth, a USS Orion could be used to launch attacks against enemy targets using nuclear missiles. Thanks to Orion’s nuclear-propulsion technology, the spaceship could make extremely fast defensive maneuvers, avoiding any Russian nuclear missiles that might come its way…For a period of time during the early 1960’s the Air Force believed Orion was going to be invincible. ‘Whoever builds Orion will control the Earth!” declared General Thomas S. Power of the Strategic Air Command.” [Jacobson, p. 305]
In this fascinating TED lecture George Dyson, son of Freeman Dyson, shares his special knowledge of the project. Not much information about Project Orion’s proposed weaponization has reached the web, but pay special attention to what he says at around 3:30-3:50…
The public will at last get a glimpse at our government’s secretive, Cold War-era version of Google Earth. Secrecy News reports: Millions of feet of film of historical imagery from intelligence satellites…
Even a regional nuclear war could spark “unprecedented” global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models. Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate.
During the Cold War a nuclear exchange between superpowers—such as the one feared for years between the United States and the former Soviet Union—was predicted to cause a “nuclear winter.”
In that scenario hundreds of nuclear explosions spark huge fires, whose smoke, dust, and ash blot out the sun for weeks amid a backdrop of dangerous radiation levels. Much of humanity eventually dies of starvation and disease.
The National Security Archive has the The Power of Decision posted in its entirety, making it available for public viewing for the first time ever. Produced in 1956-57 by the U.S. Air Force, it is perhaps the only government film depicting what the descent into nuclear holocaust would be like, a grim future in which “nobody wins a nuclear war because both sides are sure to suffer terrible damage,” yet, “success” (i.e. the United States’ prevailing with only some millions of casualties) is possible. It’s not entirely clear why this was made — perhaps to prepare military officers for confronting a nightmarish scenario:
Paleofuture Blog, which look at predictions and visions of the future as previous generations imagined it, has a video feature examining the colorful weirdness of apocalyptic doom-and-gloom in the 1970s. In that decade, frightening documentaries such as Future Shock and The Late Great Planet Earth caught the zeitgeist by foretelling the fast-approaching destruction of humanity at the hands of overpopulation, dehumanizing technology, Communism, ancient prophecies, and natural devastation. Viewing these works today, they are a reminder that the world probably isn’t going to end, and we’ll make it through to tomorrow.
Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media: While the fiery debates surrounding Wikileaks continue to move from content of cables to personal dramas surrounding founder Julian Assange, hyperbolic accusations of “high tech terrorism”…
Over 2,000 detonations! Really informative. Duncan Geere writes on Wired.com (UK):
A Japanese artist named Isao Hashimoto has created a series of works about nuclear weapons. One is titled “1945—1998” and shows a history of the world’s nuclear explosions.
Over the course of fourteen and a half minutes, every single one of the 2,053 nuclear tests and explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998 are is plotted on a map.
After a couple of minutes or so, however, once the USSR and Britain entered the nuclear club, the tests really start to build up, reaching a peak of nearly 140 in 1962, and remaining well over 40 each year until the mid-80s.
It’s a compelling insight into the history of humanity’s greatest destructive force, especially when you remember that only two nuclear explosions have ever been detonated offensively, both in 1945. Since then, despite more than 2,000 other tests and billions of dollars having been spent on their development, no nuclear warheads have been used in anger.
Ted Goodman on PhyOrg recounts the strange events of August 16, 1951, when dozens of villagers in the French village of Pont-Saint-Esprit were struck with unexplainable and horrifying hallucinations of fire and snakes and beasts of all kinds, from, what was described as by villagers, eating le pain maudit (“cursed bread”).