Burning the Sky: Operation Argus and the Untold Story of the Cold War Nuclear Tests in Outer Space

Mark Wolverton (Author)
Backorder (temporarily out of stock)


The summer of 1958 was a nerve-racking time. Ever since the Soviet Union proved that it possessed an operational intercontinental ballistic missile with the launch of Sputnik, the world watched anxiously as the two superpowers engaged in a game of nuclear one-upmanship. Tensions escalated between the United States and the Soviet Union over their respective nuclear weapons reserves, both sides desperate for a solution to the threat of the massive, instant destruction the one could cause on the other.In the midst of this rising tension, Nicholas Christofilos, an eccentric Greek-American physicist, brought forth an outlandish, albeit ingenious, idea to defend the US from a Soviet attack: launching atomic bombs from the South Atlantic Ocean, about 1,100 miles from Cape Town, to detonate in outer space to fry incoming Soviet ICBMs with an artificial radiation belt. Known as Project Argus, this plan is the biggest, most secret, and riskiest scientific experiment in history, and classified details of this operation have been long obscured. In Burning the Sky, Mark Wolverton tells the unknown and controversial story of this scheme to reveal a fascinating narrative almost completely forgotten by history--one that still has powerful resonances today. Drawing from recently declassified sources, Burning the Sky chronicles Christofilos's unconventional idea from its inception to execution--when the so-called mad scientist persuaded the military to carry out the most grandiose scientific experiment ever conceived, using the entire Earth's atmosphere as a laboratory. With over a decade of experience researching and writing about the sociological and political impacts of the science of the Cold War, Wolverton is the ideal authority on this risky experiment. Meticulously researched, with the pacing of a thriller and the language of science fiction, Burning the Sky will intrigue any lover of scientific or military history and will remind readers why Project Argus remains frighteningly relevant nearly sixty years later.

Product Details

Harry N. Abrams
Publish Date
November 27, 2018
6.3 X 1.0 X 9.3 inches | 1.0 pounds
BISAC Categories:

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Mark Wolverton is a science writer who has written widely on the history of the Cold War for a variety of magazines, including American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Smithsonian Air & Space, and American History. He is the author of A Life in Twilight: The Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer and The Depths of Space: The Story of the Pioneer Planetary Probes.


With lucid, compelling prose, Mark Wolverton reveals the secret, risky nuclear tests employed by scientists working for the US military during the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s. A gripping account . . . Wolverton's nail-biting chronicle of some of the most potentially dangerous atmospheric tests ever carried out is a must for enthusiasts of military and scientific history.--Paul Halpern, physicist and author of The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality
A gripping and nerdy tale of how a military's fetish for power and technology can wind up threatening the public instead of securing the peace. A timely reminder of the dangers of unchecked adventurism as we enter an age of cyber and social warfare.--R. Scott Kemp, Professor, Nuclear Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Burning the Sky is scary as hell. An unflinching look at one of the darkest and most dangerous secrets of our past that has every reason to scare us right now. Read this book right now!--Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Deep Silence