This is what the end of the world once looked like.
About a 4 hour bus ride south from Kiev is a former Soviet ICBM nuclear missile silo, housing enough weaponry to destroy the entire world. We are the fortunate few to not only visit the site, but also go into the depths of the silo: a place once chosen for making the decision to destroy humankind.
Viewing intercontinental ballistic missiles that house enough firepower for 1,300 times the destructive capacity of Hiroshima, missiles that could have reached from where we were to hometown NYC in less than 20 minutes, we felt out existences on this Earth humbled; there’s not much you can do when the fate of your entire grandparents’ generation becomes vested in a push of a button from some random man in a small bunker 50m underground.
It’s alarming to know how many fail-safe systems were put in place by both the Americans and the Soviets that their missiles would be delivered to their respective targets; it seems they worked harder to ensure maximum destruction than to prevent wrongful launches.
They even withheld the names of the targets that these missiles were pointing at, lest that the officers operating these weapons may harbor second thoughts carrying out their orders when they know that they might have family members there.
This single missile above was nicknamed “Satan” and had the power to “destroy an entire country as large as Ukraine.” It carried a payload of 100 megatons, or 1,300 Hiroshimas.
Above is a former silo, which unlike the American design (1 silo for 1 missiles, single use only), can be used for at least 3-4 nuclear missiles before being burnt out. This one still houses nuclear fuel below the concrete.
Then it was down the underground bunker, housing enough food and water to take care of the personnel there for at least 45 days in the event of a nuclear holocaust-related shutdown. Everything ran on electricity, including powerful turbines that purified the air below.
Going deeper, we appreciated the long, neverending underground tunnels that ultimately led to the engineering room under the silo.
4-5 at a time, we take a lift meant for 2 people. We go even deeper, this time to the missile control room, or rather “the safest place on Earth.”
This is where all the cliche movie scenes from The Sum of All Fears, Salt, The Hunt for Red October, Wargames, Command & Conquer Red Alert 2, any Cold War film of “two guys entering launch codes, turning launch keys simultaneously, and waiting for the phone call from the President before pushing the final button of death” come to life: this is where this stuff actually happened.
They would work in 6 hour shifts, where every 7 minutes they would drill drill drill, getting fake signals to launch the missiles. This practice drill would go over and over not only to perfect the technique, but also so that the two would be so robotic in going through the motions that the real signal to launch the missiles would feel just as rountine. Thankfully, that never happened.
Well, here’s to peace.
- At time of posting in The end of the world, it was 33.8 °F - Humidity: 84% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear