The problems encountered in the America’s cold war rocketry program is dramatically illustrated with a film montage of U.S. missiles spectacularly blowing up on their launch pads. After the Soviets launched Sputnik, America’s resolve to be able to wage war in space stiffened, and test detonations of atomic weapons in space began. The effects of these little-known tests were bizarre and included electromagnetic disturbances that blew fuses in Hawaii while creating beautiful, if dangerous, artificial auroras that gave the tests the nickname of the “Rainbow Bombs.”
Of particular interest in this documentary are tapes of White House meetings at which President John F. Kennedy and his top science and military advisers discussed the atomic tests in space. The bomb detonations caused radiation problems in space, damaging fledgling communications satellites, and the government eventually called an end to the program. This is an entertaining and very informative look at a piece of cold war history that seems like vintage science fiction, yet it’s all real.