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.
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).
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