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Nuking Venus
ugordan
post May 9 2006, 10:08 AM
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QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ May 9 2006, 10:49 AM) *
One of my Russian friends complained about the Starfish test. They are still pissed off about it, because it destroyed some of their satellites. Also damaged the Telstar. I guess the technical term is "oops".

What's interesting is that all of this was happening at the time Wally Schirra was supposed to go up there and there were genuine concerns about safety and radiation levels. There's an audio transcript in Nukes in Space of a white house briefing where Kennedy remarked this high-altitude testing seemed to him to be a case of "throw it up and see what happens". As a consequence, one controversial high altitude, high-yield test (code-named "Uracca") was cancelled due to concerns on what it would do to Earth's radiation belts.
I guess sanity does prevail. Sometimes.


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Bob Shaw
post May 9 2006, 11:05 AM
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Gordan:

Any idea of how much Pu got spread over Florida and it's environs as a result of those bomb tests? I bet it puts the whole hysterical response to RTGs - designed to survive almost all accidents - into some sort of perspective!

Bob Shaw


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gndonald
post May 9 2006, 01:26 PM
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QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ May 9 2006, 07:05 PM) *
Gordan:

Any idea of how much Pu got spread over Florida and it's environs as a result of those bomb tests? I bet it puts the whole hysterical response to RTGs - designed to survive almost all accidents - into some sort of perspective!

Bob Shaw


Given that the the 'Hardtack' (Orange & Teak) and the 'Dominic' (Starfish & Bluegill) tests occurred in the Pacific while the 'Argus' (1,2 & 3) tests occurred in the South Atlantic probably very little.
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Bob Shaw
post May 9 2006, 02:01 PM
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QUOTE (gndonald @ May 9 2006, 02:26 PM) *
Given that the the 'Hardtack' (Orange & Teak) and the 'Dominic' (Starfish & Bluegill) tests occurred in the Pacific while the 'Argus' (1,2 & 3) tests occurred in the South Atlantic probably very little.


Good points, but presumably (at least) the South Atlantic tests were launched from Florida, and those that failed never reached the South Atlantic... ...not to mention the almost-on-the-pad abort!

...my question remains: how much Pu?

Oh, and was Argus an attempt to nuke the South Atlantic Anomaly? It almost makes the movie version of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea seem, er, 'credible'!

Bob Shaw


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ljk4-1
post May 9 2006, 02:26 PM
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QUOTE (gndonald @ May 8 2006, 10:22 PM) *
Actually it was "Starfish Prime" that did the damage, "Starfish" did not even make space due to a launch failure, supposedly (I haven't seen it yet.) Kuran's later Nukes in Space has additional information on the US launches (Test Series: 'Hardtack', 'Argus' & 'Dominic') and also on four Soviet space tests, which I had never heard of.

I've managed to run down a page (in Russian) that has the information on the planned nuclear seismic mission to Venus, using BableFish I was able to translate it and the planning seems to have envisaged a flight after 1975. There is also some information on plans for long duration (up to one month on the surface) landers.


The details on the long-duration Venus lander are to be found here:

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.p...indpost&p=25800

Sven Grahn's excellent site includes an article on the Soviet plans in the 1950s
to detonate a nuke on the Moon:

http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/histind/E3/E3orig.htm

He has many other items of interest and relevance to this forum, including the
actual signals of Cosmos 359, what would have been the companion probe of
Venera 7 had it not remained stuck in Earth orbit.

http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/trackind/Kosm359/Kosm359.htm

When I read about these nuke to orbit failures and think of the noise made about the
launch of Cassini in 1997....

Regarding the Moon nuking above, apparently the USAF also had a similar
plan back then (the superpowers didn't kid around in the 1950s when it came to
geopolitics, did they?). In one of Carl Sagan's biographies, it actually talked
about Sagan's hope that if the USAF was going to bomb the Moon to show the
USSR just how powerful we were, there should at least be a plan in place to
somehow fly a craft through the debris cloud and retrieve samples to see if
there were any life forms, alive or fossilized, under the lunar surface.

Sound familiar?


--------------------
"After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined,
and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance.
I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard,
and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does
not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is
indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have
no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft."

- Henry David Thoreau, November 15, 1853

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gndonald
post May 9 2006, 03:22 PM
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QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ May 9 2006, 10:01 PM) *
Good points, but presumably (at least) the South Atlantic tests were launched from Florida, and those that failed never reached the South Atlantic... ...not to mention the almost-on-the-pad abort!

...my question remains: how much Pu?

Oh, and was Argus an attempt to nuke the South Atlantic Anomaly? It almost makes the movie version of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea seem, er, 'credible'!

Bob Shaw


No, the Argus tests were launched from the USS Norton Sound in the South Atlantic.

For all the details on 'Hardtack', 'Dominic' & 'Argus' the best source is the Nuclear Test Personnel Review files. The files for the operations being discussed are at the bottom of the page linked to, be careful though these are all large files over 10mb in size.
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Guest_DonPMitchell_*
post May 9 2006, 06:18 PM
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QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ May 9 2006, 07:26 AM) *
Regarding the Moon nuking above, apparently the USAF also had a similar
plan back then (the superpowers didn't kid around in the 1950s when it came to
geopolitics, did they?). In one of Carl Sagan's biographies, it actually talked
about Sagan's hope that if the USAF was going to bomb the Moon to show the
USSR just how powerful we were, there should at least be a plan in place to
somehow fly a craft through the debris cloud and retrieve samples to see if
there were any life forms, alive or fossilized, under the lunar surface.


Ah, the cold-war. Those were the days. It's still remarkably hard to read any history of the Soviet program without it being colored by people's political feelings. Personally, I'm a "Goldwater Republican", but I try to eliminate my beliefs about socialism entirely from my work on the Venera program. Oddly enough, even during the cold-war era, Russian writings about the American program were much more extensive and positive than the almost-nonexistant information published in the West about the Soviet program. One amusing exception being when Khrushchev called Vangard-1 a "grapefruit". Not that I disagree with the sentiment, but he could have been more polite.

I admit I indulged in one slight jab at America's first rockets on my website:

[attachment=5509:attachment] [attachment=5510:attachment]
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post May 9 2006, 11:54 PM
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Personal courtesy was not one of Khrushchev's strong points.
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Guest_DonPMitchell_*
post May 10 2006, 12:24 AM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ May 9 2006, 04:54 PM) *
Personal courtesy was not one of Khrushchev's strong points.


Nikita Sergeyevich had a certain peasant charm. Certainly not a monster like Stalin, he supported the space program once he saw how politically effective it was, and after him came the utterly unimaginative bureaucrat, Brezhnev. His memoirs are fascinating.

My favorite quote of all time is also one of his: "What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying". In that era of cobalt bombs and orbital nuclear bombs, you can see what he meant.
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ugordan
post May 10 2006, 07:50 AM
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QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ May 9 2006, 12:05 PM) *
Any idea of how much Pu got spread over Florida and it's environs as a result of those bomb tests? I bet it puts the whole hysterical response to RTGs - designed to survive almost all accidents - into some sort of perspective!

Plutonium? Practically no Pu at all. Plutonium is actually not the greatest health factor, other fission product are much more dangerous in the long term-- cobalt-60, strontium-90, etc. All these high altitude tests had the "advantage" of being... well -- HIGH up in the air so any fission products were either launched into space (not very likely, but still) or took months and months to descend to the surface. By that time most of the seriously radioactive stuff decays.
In short, high altitude testing amounted only to a small fraction of the total world fallout because of reasons given above and the fact most of them were lower yield devices. As far as regular atmospheric tests go, you don't want to know how much fallout was released... We're not talking local contamination here -- this stuff (especially from the megaton tests) gets deposited GLOBALLY on a timescale of months. And there were tons and tons of this radioactive soup produced over the years. Tons may sound like little, especially on a global scale, but this stuff makes radium (the first radioactive element discovered) look like a bad joke.

Reading about what was done in those years (even ozone depletion was probably serious, but noone measured THAT back then), it makes me wanna cry and laugh at the same time seeing how some people feel the need to protest now about a few kilos of Pu-238 on a few probes. During the cold war they sat silently knowing that bigger bombs being tested would help defend them against those pesky commies. How times have changed...


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Bob Shaw
post May 10 2006, 10:49 AM
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QUOTE (ugordan @ May 10 2006, 08:50 AM) *
Reading about what was done in those years (even ozone depletion was probably serious, but noone measured THAT back then), it makes me wanna cry and laugh at the same time seeing how some people feel the need to protest now about a few kilos of Pu-238 on a few probes. During the cold war they sat silently knowing that bigger bombs being tested would help defend them against those pesky commies. How times have changed...


Gordan:

That's what I was getting at - the complete disparity between the two sets of facts. Add in Soviet, French, Chinese, British (and various other) detonations and it makes spacecraft risks appear in perspective. Then add the effects of Chernobyl, all the other accidents, the horrors waiting in the wings in Russia, the reprocessing plants and so on and it begins to make me question the agenda of the protestors. It's as if they just see *one* sapling, but are blind to the forest.

Bob Shaw


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ljk4-1
post May 10 2006, 11:19 AM
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QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ May 9 2006, 02:18 PM) *
Ah, the cold-war. Those were the days. It's still remarkably hard to read any history of the Soviet program without it being colored by people's political feelings. Personally, I'm a "Goldwater Republican", but I try to eliminate my beliefs about socialism entirely from my work on the Venera program. Oddly enough, even during the cold-war era, Russian writings about the American program were much more extensive and positive than the almost-nonexistant information published in the West about the Soviet program. One amusing exception being when Khrushchev called Vangard-1 a "grapefruit". Not that I disagree with the sentiment, but he could have been more polite.

I admit I indulged in one slight jab at America's first rockets on my website:

[attachment=5509:attachment] [attachment=5510:attachment]


Wasn't the main reason that Soviet rockets and probes were so much bigger on
average than US ones was due to the fact that the US was better at miniaturizing
their technology, while the Soviets had to have bigger boosters to loft their larger
and heavier craft? Of course it also meant they could carry bigger nukes as well.


--------------------
"After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined,
and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance.
I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard,
and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does
not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is
indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have
no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft."

- Henry David Thoreau, November 15, 1853

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ugordan
post May 10 2006, 11:42 AM
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QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ May 10 2006, 12:19 PM) *
Wasn't the main reason that Soviet rockets and probes were so much bigger on
average than US ones was due to the fact that the US was better at miniaturizing
their technology, while the Soviets had to have bigger boosters to loft their larger
and heavier craft? Of course it also meant they could carry bigger nukes as well.

I read the main reason the Soviets made larger, more capable boosters was because their guidance systems weren't as precise as their U.S. counterparts. The R7 (basically today's Soyuz launch vehicle) missile was an ICBM capable of IIRC lofting a 4 megaton warhead to the USA. The larger firepower was needed due to the guidance inaccuracies, so called CEP - Circular Error Probability was large so they needed a bigger bomb to assure target destruction even if the warhead missed the intended aimpoint by a large amount.
On a note of miniaturization - the Soviets preferred vacuum tubes in place of transistors so that probably did have a part in the size issue (though a warhead itself is largely the "physics package" so the overhead was small). That had the interesting effect of Soviet warheads being more resistant to ABM high-altitude nuclear detonations than had the U.S. experts assumed when they performed their ABM tests! Apparently, the russians always did put robustness first, high-tech gadgetry second.


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Guest_DonPMitchell_*
post May 10 2006, 12:26 PM
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QUOTE (ugordan @ May 10 2006, 04:42 AM) *
I read the main reason the Soviets made larger, more capable boosters was because their guidance systems weren't as precise as their U.S. counterparts. The R7 (basically today's Soyuz launch vehicle) missile was an ICBM capable of IIRC lofting a 4 megaton warhead to the USA. The larger firepower was needed due to the guidance inaccuracies, so called CEP - Circular Error Probability was large so they needed a bigger bomb to assure target destruction even if the warhead missed the intended aimpoint by a large amount.
On a note of miniaturization - the Soviets preferred vacuum tubes in place of transistors so that probably did have a part in the size issue (though a warhead itself is largely the "physics package" so the overhead was small). That had the interesting effect of Soviet warheads being more resistant to ABM high-altitude nuclear detonations than had the U.S. experts assumed when they performed their ABM tests! Apparently, the russians always did put robustness first, high-tech gadgetry second.


These are common myths. The R-7 was designed to carry a very heavy thermonuclear warhead to a great distance, and I personally suspect that Korolev had a hidden agenda to use it for spaceflight. You can argue that they failed to miniaturize the bomb. On the other hand, the Soviets were not playing catch-up with regard to the H-bomb. They were neck-and-neck with the USA. The use of Lithium-6 Deuteride was first devloped into a practical weapon by Sakharov, the so-called Sloika bomb.

With regard to solid-state electronics, they were also not way behind. Luna-3 was almost entirely transister-based, which was quite cutting-edge in 1959. Russian physicists were also neck-and-neck with the Americans in the development of semiconducter electronics in the beginning, although I they had manufacturing difficulties years later with dense integrated circuits. The Russians use a strange mix of solid-state, vacuum tube and even electro-mechanical technology, which I think reflects cultural attitudes. They were conservative, and had different thinking about modernity and obsolecence. If they wanted a logarithmic amplifer, they'd use an acorn-sized pentode, instead of a very complex circuit of transisters. It's not obvious that is a bad decision.

The R-7's guidance system was radio controlled, and actually probably more accurate than the American missiles of that time period. They also had an intertial guidance system, but radio control with ground-based computers was about 10x more accurate. The Atlas did somewaht similar things at first, radio/inertial control. Hitting the Moon with Luna-2 in 1959 was probably beyond the technical capability of American rockets at that time (if Pioneer-4 was any indicator, a flyby that missed by too large a distance to achieve its primary objective).
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ugordan
post May 10 2006, 12:53 PM
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QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ May 10 2006, 01:26 PM) *
You can argue that they failed to miniaturize the bomb. On the other hand, the Soviets were not playing catch-up with regard to the H-bomb. They were neck-and-neck with the USA. The use of Lithium-6 Deuteride was first devloped into a practical weapon by Sakharov, the so-called Sloika bomb.

I'm not saying their bombs were heavier or less efficient than U.S. ones. AFAIK, they were trying to catch up to the Americans in respect of the "true" H-bomb - they lagged for a while, the Sloika was not a true H-bomb, it could not have been scaled up to much greater yields. The Americans did demonstrate the awesome firepower of the staged radiation implosion in an experimental device ("Mike" - M for Megaton) back in 1952, while the Soviets were still struggling with the Sloika, almost a year later. It wasn't until november 1955 that they tested their first "true" H-bomb, a time when the U.S. already demostrated the ability to weaponize "emergency capability", dry fusion fuel bombs. Since then, the two powers were equally capable of advancing their design -- the Soviets eventually went on to create the Tsar bomba, supposedly the cleanest (though some say this is just soviet propaganda and the actual 50 Mt test was "dirty" as hell) and definitely the most powerful bomb in existence, weighing only 30 tons.

As far as the R-7 goes, I can't say I'm an expert - that's just what I read. I'll trust you on this. Perhaps the design requirement for the R-7 was assuming the guidance will turn out to be imprecise, which later turned out to be false, but resulting in an overkill of a rocket? I'm also wondering about the fact the Soviets would trust their rockets receiving guidance from the ground (especially the ones carrying a warhead) in a time of paranoia and the possibility of sabotage via intruding radio signals. Recall Dr. Strangelove and the paranoia on false transmissions from the other side, which probably was a big concern at the time. I'm implying that while spacecraft-bearing R-7s would be ground controlled, the military probably wanted the warheads to have minds of their own so nothing could interfere with them.


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