Register Wednesday | January 16 | 2019
Nuclear Winter Recovery of the Stovepipe Piece, NWT, 1978.

Nuclear Winter

When a Soviet satellite crashed in Canada’s remote north, it was a sign of things to come.

In September 1977, a Soviet spy satellite called Cosmos 954 lifted off from a cosmodrome in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. It was a shining example of a modern military asset: carrying forty-five kilograms of enriched uranium as an internal power supply and packed with advanced optics technology, Cosmos 954 could peer through thick cloud to identify enemy ships at sea.

It was one more chess piece moving into place in the ongoing Cold War. And NATO paid close attention. In California, a room-sized supercomputer started trundling through data two months after the satellite’s launch, trying to understand some oddities in its journey. The satellite, despite its high-tech fittings, was in trouble. Air defence commanders could see that its orbit was decaying and it would crash back to the earth in a matter of weeks.

No one knew for sure where it was going to come down, but by ...

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