Recently I visited the Titan Missile museum and it was one of the most exciting places to visit… The best place that I have ever seen is, ofcourse, Grand Canyon… Nothing on Earth can be more beautiful than GC.. Niagara falls was also not “that beautiful”.. I wasnt very much excited after seeing it since i had already seen something more beautiful than Niagara.. 😛
In school, we had studied a lot about nuclear weapons in Physics.. Physics was my most favourite subject and will always be.. The silo we visited became operational in 1963 and was deactivated in 1982… There was a one hour tour of the whole missile setup.. After reading Fenyman’s books, I had imagined how a nuclear weapon looked like and what would happen when such a weapon blew.. Fenyman was one of the chief scientists who was involved in making a nuclear bomb and was also present when the first nuclear bomb was tested.. He had described how horrible it was to see such a bomb blowing everything.. he had described that all you see is green light when such a bomb explodes.. I was more than excited to see such a bomb (though they have removed the actual bomb from the missile).. This bomb was 600 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan..
The missile was buried underground.. its height is 130 feet.. They have retained the actual setup of the missile center as it is.. The walls as you can see are so thick and they all have steel plating (a layer of steel plate) on them.. this was necessary in case there were any blasts or something on the plant… the doors to the control room were operated using hydraulic power it seems.. each door was about 8-10 feet thick.. we could see the black cables used to do the wiring.. The missile was erected on 4 springs which made sure that it remained intact even in the case of any shockwave impact..The black tip that you see is called the reentrancy vehicle (RV) used by the missile to reenter into the atmosphere and it is the one which has the bomb in it.. It should made of some thick material which can resist the heat.. The rest of the parts of the missile drop off before leaving the Earth’s atmosphere..
The control room has been kept intact.. The crew were to stay here for 30 days waiting for an announcement from the government to launch the missile.. The missile was completely ready with even the fuel and the missile loaded in it.. They just had to launch it as soon as they were asked to.. Even the targets for the missiles had been decided and the crew had no idea what these targets were… There were 2 targets – Target 1 and Target 2.. They just had to press the one which they were asked to but they will not be told what these targets are.. but fortunately it was never launched!
The launching of the missile was also simulated for the visitors.. It was really nice to see how they had planned to do this.. There were two commanders (or whatever they are called).. Each one was given a top secret file with instructions on launching the missile.. They both had to insert a key and turn it and then press the indicated buttons to check if everything was working and then to start the engine and launch it..
To keep the crew in contact with the outside world, various kinds of radio wave and infrared antennas were setup all around the building.. The interesting thing to learn was that the radio waves can also travel through Earth.. they dont always need air.. They had buried some of the radio wave antennas underground and they were supposed to carry the waves through soil and no one would even notice that they are antennas.. There were boards all over the place saying “Watch for rattlesnakes”.. These boards were put up because in those days, since it was hot outside (obvious since it is in Arizona 😛 ) and cool inside, the rattlesnakes would crawl inside the underground missile setup..
It was a very interesting place to visit and my physics knowledge improved 😉 .. especially since Physics is my most favourite subject! 🙂
Read this article about Fenyman’s description of how the first nuclear explosion looked like – First bomb explosion