Why the U.S. once set off a nuclear bomb in space
The results from the 1962 Starfish Prime test serve as a warning of what might happen if Earth’s magnetic field gets blasted again with high doses of radiation.
It was pitch black when Greg Spriggs’ father brought his family to the highest point on Midway Atoll on July 8, 1962. That night on another atoll a thousand miles away, the U.S. military was scheduled to launch a rocket into space to test a fusion bomb.
“He was trying to figure out which direction to look,” Spriggs recalls. “He thought there was going to be this little flicker, so he wanted to make sure everybody was going to see it.”
Spectators were also holding “watch-the-bomb parties” in Hawaii, as the countdown was broadcast over shortwave radio. Photographers aimed their lenses toward the horizon and debated the best camera settings for capturing a thermonuclear explosion in outer space.
It turned out