Sunday, March 7, 2010
In the 1930s, physicists discovered that isotopes of certain radioactive elements, when exposed to high-energy neutrons, would split, or undergo fission, into two smaller atoms, releasing a large amount of energy as according to Einstein’s equation E=mc2. They also noticed that fission also released neutrons, meaning that with a large enough mass of nuclear material, a chain reaction of great power could occur.
Later, when World War 2 broke out, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt, suggesting the possibility of using nuclear fission to construct a powerful bomb to stop the Nazis with. Following this suggestion, the Manhattan Project was born. Led by Robert Oppenheimer, a team of some of America’s best scientists was gathered in secret to construct a working atomic bomb. Their first breakthrough occurred in 1942 when Enrico Fermi conducted the first controlled nuclear reaction. Eventually, after much research and development, the first test nuclear bomb was detonated at Trinity, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945.
However, despite the bomb having been constructed to prevent the Nazis from conducting similar research and building a bomb of their own, the atomic bomb came too late to affect the war in Germany, Germany having surrendered in May after a two-pronged attack by Soviet and Allied forces. The first and only two atomic bombs used in war were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9 respectively, ending the war in the Pacific.
The Soviet Atomic Bomb Project
The Soviets were also interested in the applications of nuclear fission in warfare, and had started a nuclear weapons programme in 1941 under Igor Kurchatov, getting information from the Manhattan Project from two spies, Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall. Eventually, the Soviets detonated their first nuclear weapon, RDS-1 (a copy of the Fat Man bomb used on Nagasaki), on August 29 1949. This kicked off the nuclear arms race, as America and the USSR tried to upstage each other by building more, larger bombs.
Nuclear fission is just one of the nuclear reactions that can be used to generate large amounts of energy – nuclear fusion, the combining of light nuclei into heavier nuclei, generates even larger amounts of energy, and can be used to build even more destructive warheads. However, a nuclear fusion bomb can only be triggered by the high temperatures generated by nuclear fission bombs. Enrico Fermi came up with the idea of the thermonuclear bomb in 1941, and the idea was refined and turned into a workable design by Edward Teller (also known as the father of the hydrogen bomb) and his co-worker Stanislaw Ulam. The first full-size thermonuclear explosion was the “Ivy Mike” test on November 1, 1952, where a thermonuclear bomb with a yield of 10.4 megatons (250 times more powerful than Fat Man or Little Boy) was detonated on the Enewatak Atoll. The Soviets quickly followed, detonating their own thermonuclear weapon in 1953.
The Americans and the Russians eventually tested larger and larger designs, culminating in the Russian Tsar Bomba, a 100 megaton bomb so powerful that it had to be tested at half power to reduce fallout (and allow the plane that dropped it to escape from the blast radius safely) – the blast was still powerful enough to be felt and seen up to 1000 km away. With the advent of thermonuclear weapons, the world would never be the same again – now, weapons powerful enough to cause global catastrophe were in the hands of the world’s two superpowers, which might start a nuclear war at any time. It made the situation of the Cold War much more precarious, and the spectre of nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue states like North Korea or terrorist organizations still haunts the world today.
There are three primary methods for delivering nuclear warheads – air-dropped bombs from bombers, ballistic missiles, or nuclear-armed submarines. Other methods, like nuclear artillery and others, were much less commonly used.
Land-Based Ballistic Missiles
The predecessor of Cold War ICBMs was the V-2 ballistic missile, developed by the Nazis to bomb London in World War 2. The design was copied by the Russians and Americans after Germany’s defeat, leading to the development of a range of ballistic missiles. The first true ICBMs were the Soviet R-7 and the American Atlas, developed in 1957 and 1959 respectively. Both of these were later repurposed as launch systems during the space race.
A later development of the ICBM was the MIRV (multiple insertion re-entry vehicle). This allowed a single ICBM to carry multiple smaller warheads, which could target different locations to spread out the damage the weapon could do. It made the missile’s attack more destructive if all the warheads were launched at a certain location, and also made the missile much harder to intercept, as should 1 MIRV be shot down, the others would still pose a threat. It also allows countries to find a loophole in ICBM restriction treaties, as more warheads can be fitted onto a smaller number of missiles, and only the number of missiles was regulated in the treaties, not the number of warheads. MIRVed land-based ICBMs were considered destabilizing because they tended to put a premium on striking first, thus this type of weapon was banned under the START II agreement.
ICBMS have an advantage over other forms of nuclear weapons delivery in that they are very hard to intercept – an ICBM travels up to 20 times faster than a strategic bomber, and can strike almost anywhere in the world from its launch site. MIRVs also greatly decrease the chance of the missile being intercepted mid-flight. In fact, a major strategy in projected nuclear warfare scenarios is attempting to destroy enemy nuclear silos while the missiles are still on the ground, as intercepting them in mid-flight can be quite difficult. The main drawback of ICBMs is their complexity and cost compared to air-dropped bombs.
ICBMs are limited by nuclear weapons treaties such as SALT I and II (and the more recent START treaty), which limited the number of ICBMs countries can own. The USA and Russia have also decommissioned many of their missiles after the end of the Cold War. However, that has not deterred some countries from developing ICBMs, like Israel, India and North Korea.
Air-dropped bombs were the primary method of delivery for nuclear weapons for the early stages of the Cold War, and they are still the most prevalent method for the delivery of nuclear warheads.
The first air-dropped nuclear bombs were the Fat Man and Little Boy weapons, large, unwieldy devices carried by strategic bombers. Later, as the Cold War progressed and warheads were miniaturized, bombs became small enough to mount on fighter-bombers like the F-16 and F-22. With the advent of stealth technology, nuclear weapons can now be delivered undetected, giving the element of surprise, but due to the end of the Cold War, it is unlikely such a situation will materialize.
Air-dropped bombs are easier to develop than missiles due to their simplicity and the larger size constraints (the bomb does not need to fit into a missile, but can be carried on any plane large enough), but are more easily intercepted, as bombers and fighters are slower than ICBMs and can be shot down more easily.
Several countries own air-dropped nuclear weapons, including several member countries of NATO like Italy and Belgium.
Submarine-launched missiles were first developed by the Germans during World War II. At first, the submarine had to surface to launch the missiles, but due to developments after World War 2, newer missiles could launch missiles while still submerged.
Another breakthrough in submarine-based nuclear weapons was the invention of the nuclear-powered submarine. A submarine powered by a nuclear reactor needs refueling much less often, allowing it to submerge for much longer and travel much further. This gave the submarines almost world-wide reach, allowing them to strike targets undetected and with impunity.
Submarine-launched nuclear missiles are important strategic assets because of their stealthy nature – they can submerge, hiding themselves from the view of spy satellites, making them very hard to track down and destroy. Also, should a nuclear war start, a nuclear-armed submarine can still attack the enemy even if all land-based weapons be destroyed, allowing a nation to retaliate after a crippling nuclear attack, ensuring mutually assured destruction. Also, they can sneak very close to enemy territory and launch missiles, allowing for devastating surprise attacks.
Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, like their ground-based counterparts, have benefited from the inclusion of MIRVs, making their attacks even more devastating.
These missiles are also regulated by nuclear disarmament treaties, reducing their use. Countries that own SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles) include the USA, Russia, Britain, France, India and China.
Other methods of delivering nuclear missiles have been devised, like cruise missiles and nuclear artillery. However, the use of these in strategic nuclear warfare is limited due to the size and power limitations of these weapons, limiting them to tactical uses.
Many of these weapons were installed on the border between the NATO countries and the Soviet bloc in case the USSR attempted a conventional invasion of Europe. The missiles, having a lower power than strategic nuclear weapons, would be used to eliminate USSR forces without causing as much collateral damage as a strategic nuclear weapon.
Done by: Shao Xiong
Many types of new technology were invented during the Cold War. Examples include the space shuttle, the space suit and satellites.
The space shuttle allows humans to go to outer space and return without having to discard parts each time it is used, thus saving money and effort. The space suit allows man to survive outside his spacecraft while in outer space, and satellites allow for nearly-instantaneous communication, which paved the way for later inventions such as satellite television and GPS (Global Positioning System). Today over a thousand artificial satellites orbit earth, relaying communications data around the planet and allowing remote sensing of data regarding weather, vegetation, and human movements to nations who employ them. In addition, much of the micro-technology which fuels everyday activities, from time-keeping to enjoying music derives from research initially driven by the Space Race.
The science developed for space exploration technologies has uses ranging from the kitchen to athletic fields. Dried and ready-to-eat foods, in particular food sterilization and package sealing techniques, stay-dry clothing, and even no-fog goggles have their roots in space science.
Done by: Leon
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Causes and Implications of the Cold War Arms and Space Race
Nuclear Arms Race
The nuclear arms race which took place during the Cold War had its origins in WWII. After America caused Japan’s surrender by deploying two atomic bombs, it believed it had a bargaining chip against the USSR, because it had the knowledge and materials to create atomic weapons while the USSR had none. However, the Soviets solved their lack of uranium, which was a main reason behind their lack of atomic weapons, and successfully tested their first atomic weapon in 1949, well before the USA’s predicted date of the mid 1950s.
After that, both sides spent massive amounts of resources to increase the quality and quantity of their nuclear arsenals. They quickly began work on hydrogen bombs and the United States successfully detonated the first such device on November 1, 1952. Again, the USSR surprised the Americans by exploding a thermonuclear device of their own the next August. The Soviet H-bomb was almost completely a product of the USSR’s own research, as their spies in the USA had only worked on very basic (and incorrect) versions of the hydrogen bomb. This meant that both the USA and USSR had to capability to cause enormous amounts of destruction to each other, should they choose to do so.
The most important development in terms of nuclear weapon delivery in the 1950s was the introduction of ICBMs (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles). Missiles had long been viewed as the best platform for nuclear weapons, and were potentially a more effective delivery system than delivery via strategic bombers, which was the primary delivery method at the start of the Cold War. On 4 October 1957, the Soviet Union showed the world that they had missiles that could hit anywhere in the world with the launch of Sputnik. The United States launched its own rocket on 31 October 1959. The Space Race resulted in technology that was critical to the delivery of nuclear weapons (ICBM boosters) while appearing to be done for the purpose of science and exploration. Thus, as a side effect of the Space Race, there was nowhere on Earth which was safe from the nuclear weapons of the Cold War, and the USA and USSR could easily strike at each other.
This period also saw attempts begin to defend against nuclear weapons. Both powers built large radar arrays to detect incoming bombers and missiles. Fighters to intercept nuclear bombers and anti-ballistic missiles to use against ICBMs were also developed. Large underground bunkers were constructed to save the leadership of the superpowers, and individuals were told to build fallout shelters and taught how to react to a nuclear attack (civil defence). These bombs could kill millions in the event of an attack by either side. Thus, the Cold War resulted in the creation of nuclear bunkers, and people in that era had their lives affected by the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Both sides also adopted the MAD doctrine (Mutually Assured Destruction). The MAD doctrine assumed that each side has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other side and that either side, if attacked for any reason by the other, would retaliate with equal or greater force. The expected result would be an immediate escalation resulting in both combatants' total and assured destruction. The doctrine also assumed that neither side would launch a first strike because the other side would launch on warning or launch with secondary forces (second strike) resulting in the destruction of both parties. MAD was seen as helping to prevent any direct full-scale conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union while they engaged in smaller proxy wars around the world. It was also responsible for the arms race, as both nations struggled to keep nuclear parity, or at least retain the capability for a second strike. Proponents of MAD as part of strategic doctrine believed that nuclear war could best be prevented if neither side could expect to survive a full scale nuclear exchange as a functioning state. Since the credibility of the threat was vital to such assurance, each side had to invest heavily in their nuclear arsenals even if they were not intended for use. In addition, neither side expected to adequately defend itself against the other's nuclear missiles. This led to the hardening and diversification of nuclear delivery systems (such as nuclear missile silos, ballistic missile submarines and nuclear bombers kept at fail-safe points). Thus, the MAD doctrine made both sides constantly upgrade their nuclear weapons to as to maintain the capability to retaliate against an attack, and this caused the Arms Race.
The Space Race was a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, as each side tried to match or better the other's accomplishments in exploring outer space. It involved the efforts to explore outer space with artificial satellites, to send man into space, and to land him on the Moon.
The Space Race effectively began after the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957. The term originated as an analogy to the arms race. The Space Race became an important part of the cultural, technological, and ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Space technology became a particularly important arena in this conflict, because of both its potential military applications and the morale-boosting social benefits. Thus the Space Race started as a result of the two sides’ pride, and also because it had technological and military applications.
As a result of the Space Race, the world entered the Space Age, and technology such as GPS, satellite phones, and space shuttles were developed. Thus the Space Race indirectly contributed to many great advancements in technology.
Done by: Leon Lam
Nuclear Arms Race (Shao Xiong)
The arms race has left far-reaching consequences that still affect us today, one of which is the presence of huge stockpiles of highly destructive nuclear weapons. In an attempt to reduce the number of such weapons, various treaties have been drawn up like the 1991 START treaty, cutting the stockpiles of the US and the former Soviet Union.
One great worry about nuclear weapons is that they could fall into the hands of those who would not wield their power responsibly, like rogue states or terrorist organizations. After the collapse of the USSR, many nuclear weapons were left in former satellite states like Ukraine, often in poorly-guarded installations. Should a terrorist organization manage to steal one of these missiles, it could cause havoc, as a terrorist organization, not belonging to a fixed country, will have no reservations about using the nuclear weapon, since there is no possibility of a retaliatory nuclear strike.
Also, if a rogue state like North Korea gets its hands on blueprints for nuclear weaponry or fissionable material, it would cause great instability in the region, since a rogue state does not conform to international laws, and might be willing to use the nuclear weapon to further its aims.
However, the nuclear arms race was not without its beneficial consequences. Many important technologies were invented due to the nuclear arms race, such as space technology – without the arms race, the space race would never have happened, and we would not enjoy the benefits of space technology like satellite photos, live satellite TV, cheap international phone calls or weather satellites. The Internet was also a result of the arms race – it was developed from a system that would allow US key personnel to communicate even in the event of a nuclear attack.
Done by: Shao Xiong
Oct. 4 - Sputnik I was launched by USSR
Nov. 3 - Sputnik II with a dog as its passenger was launched by USSR
Jan. 31 - Explorer 1, the first American satellite to reach orbit, is launched which led to the discovery of Van Allen radiation belt.
Mar. 5 - Explorer 2 was launched by USA but failed to reach orbit.
Mar. 17 - Vanguard I satellite was launched by USA and functioned for 3 years.
May 15 - Sputnik III was launched by USSR
Oct. 1 - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed by USA
Oct. 11 - Pioneer I was launched to a height of 70,700 miles by USA
Jan. 2 - Luna 1 the first man-made object to orbit the Sun was launched by USSR.
Mar. 3 - Pioneer IV was launched by USA and passed within 37,000 miles of the Moon before falling into a solar orbit.
Sep. 12 - Luna II was launched by USSR. It touched down on the Moon on September 13, becoming the first man-made object to do so.
Oct. 4 - Luna III was launched by USSR and orbited the Moon and photographed its surface.
Apr. 1 - Tiros I the first successful weather satellite was launched by USA
Nov. 8 - John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States.
Apr. 12 - Yuri Gagarin (Soviet) orbited Earth and became first man in space.
May 5 - Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space.
May 25 - President John F. Kennedy (USA) set goal to send men to Moon within the decade.
Aug. 6 - Gherman Titov (Soviet) spent a day in space aboard Vostok II.
Feb. 20 - John Glenn (USA) orbited Earth three times.
May 24 - Scott Carpenter (USA) repeated John Glenn's flight aboard "Aurora 7".
Oct. 3 - Walter Schirra (USA) orbited the Earth six times.
Dec. 14 - Mariner II (USA) flies past Venus and entered a solar orbit.
May 15 - L. Gordon Cooper (USA) spent 34 hours in space becoming last American to be in space alone
Jun. 16 - Cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova becomes the first Soviet woman in space.
Nov. 22 - President Kennedy (USA) was assassinated.
Jul. 31 - Ranger 7 (USA) transmits the first close range images of the Moon.
Mar. 18 - Alexei Leonov (Soviet) performed first spacewalk.
Jun. 3 - Ed White (USA) performs America's first spacewalk.
Jul. 14 - Mariner IV (USA) returns close ranger images of Mars.
Feb. 3 - Luna 9 launched by USSR became the first spacecraft to soft-land on the Moon.
Apr. 3 - Luna 10 launched by USSR became the first satellite to orbit Moon.
Jun. 2 - Surveyor I (USA) soft-lands on Moon.
Aug. 14 - Lunar Orbiter I (USA) entered orbit around the Moon and took first picture of Earth from that distance.
Nov. 11 - Gemini 12 (USA), the last flight of the Gemini Program, launched with James Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin aboard.
Jan. 27 - Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee (USA) were killed when in Apollo I capsule.
Apr. 24 - Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov (Soviet) died during Soyuz I flight.
Oct. 18 - Venera IV (USSR) transmitted data about the atmosphere of Venus.
Sep. 15 - Zond V (USSR) was launched with two turtles as passengers and went around the Moon returning to Earth six days later.
Dec. 21 - Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders (USA) began the first manned journey from Earth to Moon. On Christmas Eve they take turns reading Genesis in a broadcast heard around the world.
Jan. 16 - Soyuz IV and V (USSR) performed the first Soviet spacecraft docking.
Jul. 20 - Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (USA) became the first men to walk on the Moon while crewmate Michael Collins orbited around Moon.
John F. Kennedy the 35th president of the US (in office from 1961-1963) during the Cold War is definitely deeply involved in the arms race. In 1961 he announced a program to build nuclear shelters and pamphlets were distributed on how to survive a nuclear war. He deeply believed that a nuclear war should be prevented at all costs and often made comments on the possible catastrophe nuclear weapons can be cause. In a report to the American people on the Berlin Crisis in July 1961, he said: “In the thermonuclear age, any misjudgment on either side about the intentions of the other could rain more devastation in several hours than has been wrought in all the wars of humanity”. He came up with the Disarmament Program which includes essential proposals such as, the signing of the test-ban treaty by all nations, destruction of the existing nuclear weapons and the prohibiting of transfer of control of nuclear weapons to countries that do not own them. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was finally signed on the August 5, 1963 by the US, USSR, and the United Kingdom. In fact Kennedy has been fighting for a ban on nuclear testing since 1956. He saw the banning as the first step to nuclear disarmament. After the Cuban Missile Crisis both the USSR and US realized how close they came to starting a nuclear war which could have wiped out most of mankind. Kennedy called for an end to the Cold War and after 12 days of negotiations with USSR both states decided to sign the test ban treaty.
Nikita Khrushchev was president of the USSR from 1953-1964. His popularity decreased with his flawed policies and was removed from the presidential seat. Khrushchev was deeply involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis which almost resulted in a nuclear war between US and USSR. He ordered missile launchers to be installed in Cuba secretly until the US got hold of the information and decided to take action. Several days of high tension occurred when negotiations were held between both countries on what to do. Khrushchev ended up making a compromise and removed the weapons from Cuba. This move might have saved the world from being destroyed by the massive destruction the nuclear weapons are capable of. Khrushchev aimed to surpass US in terms of weapons production.
Klaus Emil Julius Fuchs made significant contribution to the development of nuclear weapons. He was a talented theoretical physicist and was responsible for several works relating to the early generation of Hydrogen bombs. He was widely known as an atomic spy who betrayed the US and aided the USSR. He passed on atomic research information from the US to the USSR during and after WWII. He was part of the team working on the Manhattan Project (the project which created the first nuclear bombs), and delivered drawings of the atomic bomb, Fat Man, to his Soviet courier, Harry Gold.
the group that created the “gun-assembly” prototype, which was the world’s first atomic bomb, and which afterwards was used on Nagasaki. Before he died he shared his feelings about the work he had done: “I have no remorse about the making of the bomb and Trinity [the first test of an atomic bomb]. That was done right. As for how we used it, I understand why it happened and appreciate with what nobility those men with whom I'd worked made their decision. But I do not have the feeling that it was done right. The ultimatum to Japan
Richard Nixon the 37th president of the US, could be said as the starting point of the détente for the nuclear arms race. On the day Nixon got inaugurated (20th January 1969), USSR government offered negotiations on issues regarding nuclear arms control. Negotiations were then held which were more commonly known as Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). To a certain extent SALT achieved success in limiting nuclear arms. The SALT I treaty signed froze the number of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles but allowed replacement of old missiles with new ones. Through this agreement, the thawing of the Cold War began when both states decided that it was meaningless to continue the never ending nuclear arms race.
The space race was a technological war between the USSR and US which contributed to the heightening of tension during the Cold War. It was also a race for supremacy in space technology.
Wernher Von Braun was one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology. He was most notably known for his achievement in creating the Saturn V booster rocket that helped land Neil Armstrong and his team on the Moon. This rocket could be said as the answer to the boosters created by USSR. He was also instrumental in developing the first American satellite, Explorer I. He was also the director of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, afterwards further developing space launch vehicles. He suggested boosting a capsule with a passenger into space for a short flight and managed to accomplish it in 1961 by using one of his productions, Redstone. Von Braun’s most significant achievement was to be able to beat USSR in being the first country to place men on Moon.
John F. Kennedy the president of the US from 1961-1963 was the guy who set the goal of placing men on the moon within the decade. He was enthusiastic about making US the top in terms of space technology after being elected as president. He did not want US to be behind USSR in the space race, and after seeing Yuri Gagarin successfully becoming the first man to encircle Earth Kennedy was determined to beat USSR in being the first country to place men on the Moon. Unfortunately, while holding campaigns in an attempt to prevent the slashing of NASA’s budget by the Congress, he was assassinated in Dallas and failed to see Neil Armstrong (picture on the left) become the first man on the Moon. “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish....”
Richard Nixon the 37th President of the US might not have ambitions as great as those of John F. Kennedy in terms of space technology. However in his presidential years, he saw through much space technology development including all US Project Apollo moon landings. He was also the one who gave approval to the NASA Space Shuttle Program which was said to have greatly influenced American efforts to explore space decades after. The most significant contribution Nixon made was probably the decision to approve the first joint US-USSR space program. This joint effort was called the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. It greatly reduced tension of the space race between the two states, putting an end to the intensive space race between both states.