In the summer of 1957, the U.S. Military conducted an underground nuclear test in the remote Nevada desert. A nuclear device equivalent to several hundred tons of TNT was placed at the bottom of a five hundred foot mineshaft. A concrete plug was placed in the top of the shaft, and a 4-inch thick, 900-kg. blast plate of solid steel was welded over the opening. Dr. Robert Brownlee claims he "knew it would be blown off the shaft, just not how fast or far." The nuclear device was then detonated.
Explains Dr. Brownlee, "We never found it. It was gone." Subsequent analysis of high-speed surface cameras revealed no definitive evidence: the plate only appears in one frame, on its way up into the Nevada stratosphere. Calculations suggest the plate may have achieved a velocity near 50,000 miles per hour, or twice Earth's escape velocity. Dr. Brownlee's own simulation, which he places little faith in due to simplification, suggested the plate was traveling at 6 times Earth's escape velocity, or 150,00 miles per hour.
Yes, this was quite possibly the first man-made object to enter space, preceding Sputnick by several months. Nobody designed that 4” plate of steel to breach the ionosphere and carry mankind’s irradiated message to stars, but it did it anyway, exceeding the wildest dreams of all the miners, technicians, and steel-plate afficionadios who gave so lovingly to its creation. Without propulsion, life support, or FAA approval, it became, indubitably, a voyageur of the Heavens – and a Hero.
We'd like to say that the radiation from Pascal-B transformed us all into costumed superheroes or something, but it didn't. We began Beyond Spec as a way to share information about ways to enjoy and/or maim ourselves in the wilderness in a low-impact way without spending outlandish amounts of money.
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