On April 12, 1961 the Soviet Union made history by sending Yuri Gagarin into space. He was the world’s first astronaut, and he was the one who shot the United States in the arm and made us realize that we had a long way to go if we wanted to beat the commies at their own game.
In 1962, the USSR commemorated this day as a national holiday – Cosmonautics Day. In 2011 some random international agency declared it the International Day of Human Space Flight, whatever that means.
The 1960s were a boom for Nuclear items. New bombs were being made at an unheard of rate, and the US and the USSR spent countless billions of dollars on trying to one-up each other. Well, since there were enough nukes to destroy the world a few dozen times over, peaceful uses of these bombs was looked for. Project Orion was one of those things in America. The USSR had a civil project: Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy. Their most famous one is the Chagan nuclear test. This 140kt nuclear explosion created Lake Chagan in Kazakhstan, an 8,100acre ft lake.
The lake itself is naturally, still radioactive, and not safe for humans, or fish, or anything really. But, it was an interesting use of extra nuclear bombs. In general, the project was deemed a failure. Too much effort was involved, and the resulting landscapes were too radioactive to be of any use. Still, it’s nice to see that nuclear bombs aren’t all death and destruction.
Here’s some historic Soviet footage. I’m not 100% sure what it is of, but let’s just watch it anyway, it’s fun: