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Cosmos 954




Cosmos 954 was a secret Soviet satellite launched on September 18, 1977 to spy for the navy. The satellite was powered by a nuclear reactor. Cosmos 954 did not last long in orbit. Ideally it should have ejected its reactor into a higher orbit before the main body reentered the atmosphere. In a higher orbit, the reactor would then remain aloft for several hundred years. Unfortunately, a technical malfunction prevented the ejection.


Cosmos 954 came crashing to Earth on January 24, 1978 and landed in the Canadian arctic. Because it was a Soviet spy satellite, the Russians were tight lipped about all details.


The US dispatched a secret CIA search/clean up team to locate the satellite in Canada's north. However, before the CIA found the wreckage, a small group of Canadian arctic explorers stumbled on the nuclear debris and, not knowing what it was, they poked and prodded the stuff for a while. Luckily the debris the explorers found was only mildly radioactive. Debris later found by the CIA team was found to be emitting 200 roentgens of radiation per hour (which could kill a human after two hours of exposure).


Canada handled the majority of the clean up (the debris was scattered over an area of about 100,000 sq km). Canada sent the Soviets a bill for six million dollars. The Ruskies paid up after three years.


-- Karl Mamer





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