The Coming Battle Over Space

Rachel Riederer at Harper’s Magazine:

On July 8, 1962, just after 11 pm, the sky over Hawaii turned, in a moment, from black to blazing. Streetlights went out, all at once; radios stopped working. For several minutes, a red orb, edged in purple, surrounding a luminous yellow core, made the night as bright as day. It then dimmed, slowly, receding into color-changing auroras. When these lights faded, they left behind a spectral glow that persisted for hours and could be seen throughout the Pacific.

The United States had just detonated a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead in space. Launched from the Johnston Atoll, an isolated island that had gone from seabird refuge to seaplane landing base to weapons-testing site, the hydrogen bomb exploded two hundred and fifty miles above the earth’s surface.

more here.