In a quest for Cold War military superiority, the United States detonated more than 1,000 nuclear weapons. Government researchers blew up many of the bombs on the ground and others in ocean atolls.
Yet as threats moved into space and concerns about fallout increased – material that’s sucked into a blast can become radioactive – the US exploded 210 of the terrifying devices high in the atmosphere.
Films of the blasts, made from 1945 through 1962, were analysed then locked away in high-security vaults. It’s likely no one has seen the footage for decades.
But now, after more than 65 years of collecting dust, the US has declassified 750 of the high-speed films for the first time – and released dozens of digital scans on YouTube.
We first heard about the movies from writer Sarah Zhang on Twitter.
A team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists led the rescue of thousands of the films over the past five years. They’re made of nitrate cellulose, which releases a vinegar smell as they degrade, according to a LLNL release.
“This is it. We got to this project just in time,” Greg Spriggs, a nuclear weapons physicist at LLNL, said in a video about the digitisation effort.
“We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing, to the point where they will become useless.”
Read More: ScienceAlert