[quote="Simon of the Playa"]Kiwi
In the 1960â€™s, the US was on its way to the moon. Lesser known is the fact that, at area 25 (a sister top secret site to Area 51) of the Nevada Test Site, NASA and AEC scientists were working on something even more ambitious â€“ a trip to Mars on a nuclear powered rocket.
This was called project Nuclear Engine Rocket Vehicle Application or NERVA. Sixteen stories tall, the rocket ship, called Orion, would send 150 men to Mars in only 124 days.
Orion would blast off from eight 250-foot-tall towers out of a cloud of radioactivity generated by a powerful nuclear reactor and engine aboard the ship. When running at full power the nuclear engine operated at 3,680 degrees Fahrenheit; it had to be cooled by liquid hydrogen gas.
To test such a monster engine and reactor it had to be bolted down to the earth. When tested, the NERVA engine would shoot into the atmosphere a plume of hydrogen exhaust that had passed through a superheated uranium fission reactor.
The Los Alamos scientists then decided they wanted to know what would happen if scientists lost control of one of these nuclear engines, and it exploded. Thus was born Kiwi â€“ a test to deliberately blow up one of these reactor/engines.
On January 12, 1965, a nuclear rocket engine, codenamed Kiwi, was allowed to overheat. At a temperature of 4,000 degrees Centigrade, the reactor burst â€“ shooting radioactive fuel skyward, glowing every color of the rainbow.
The explosion blew a 100-pound chunk of radioactive fuel a quarter mile away. The radioactive plume rose to 2,600 feet, and the wind eventually carried the radioactive cloud west, passing over Los Angeles and out to sea.
Scientists were airborne with instruments measuring the amount of radiation that was released into the atmosphere, but as of today that data remains classified.
Though this was passed off as another â€œsafety testâ€
Oh yeah, this year I was totally twerping out at the fence. ~Lonesombri