The U.S. has been testing nuclear weapons to stop natural disasters for decades
The 1960s were a time of unprecedented technological advancement, all amidst the backdrop of the Cold War between the United States and the USSR.
From televised broadcasts across the Atlantic Ocean to manned spaceflight, the world became a much smaller place thanks to our exploration in space.
In light of this new frontier, we naturally did what man does best when it came to space: we tried to nuke it.
Known as Starfish Prime, the nuclear test took place in 1962 and was the largest of the five American attempts to “nuke space.”
Sent to the stars aboard a Thor rocket, the W49 thermonuclear warhead took place more than 250 miles from the Earth and lit up a night-time Honolulu as if it were morning.
Starfish Prime also came with side-effects and some were worse than others. In Hawaii, around 300 street lights reportedly went out, several power lines fused, TV and radios malfunctioned, and burglar alarms went off. An aurora was visible in the sky for some time, causing significant alarm amongst those who were not informed of the tests.
Some of the more serious damage took place in low-Earth orbit. The fantastic explosion caused the death of several satellites, including Telstar-1, an AT&T satellite that provided the first live transatlantic television feed. The radiation produced created some artificial radiation bands that eventually disabled 1/3 of the low orbit satellites in orbit.
Several other similar tests were conducted under Operation Dominic, including King Fish, which produced an aurora that was so spectacular, it lingered in the atmosphere.
As for Telstar-1, it remains dead in orbit to this day, a product of the Cold War- that ironically fell victim to other products of the Cold War.
Since the 1960s, we’ve gone on to attempt all sorts of scientific things using nuclear weapons and military/space hardware including weather manipulation (to include the long-running idea of nuking hurricanes, which has persisted over the years despite evidence that it wouldn’t work). While some tests have proven more successful than others, quite a few have considerable merit and have helped us better understand how we can affect the world -and other worlds- around us.
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