I happened to read an article today that casually notes:
“It has been long known that U.S. authorities kept a lid on the possibility that the radiation belt Van Allen had discovered was the result of a Soviet atomic nuclear explosion. Although these suspicions were wrong, the U.S. began testing nuclear explosions in space in late 1958.”
I’ve never heard about this before. Did both the United States and the Soviet Union launch ICBMs and then detonate them above the atmosphere? Isn’t that a little dangerous? Where were they detonated?
It all seems a little unlikely to me. If the Ruskies called up Ike one day and said, “we’re going to launch an ICBM and then explode it–but don’t worry, we’re not aiming it at you,” he’d have likely sent everything he had after them, just to be safe. On the other hand, if you don’t inform your adversary, and they suddenly detect a blast above the atmosphere, aren’t they just as likely to misinterpret the blast as a failed, but nevertheless intentional, offensive strike?