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July Mon 16, 2012
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On today’s date, July 16, in 1945, the first successful test of an atomic bomb took place in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The test, code named Trinity, marked the beginning of the Atomic Age.Researchers had been working on the creation of a uranium bomb since 1939 and, with the rise of Nazi Germany and fears that they might have been developing a bomb of their own, the U.S. Army started the Manhattan Project, which culminated in the Trinity Test and the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.Brigadier-General Leslie R. Groves was in charge of the project, helped by physicist Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago and Robert J. Oppenheimer at Los Alamos. They combined theory and practice to create the bomb. The Manhattan project ended up costing about 2 billion dollars.The “gadget” as the bomb was called, was lifted to the top of a 100 foot bomb tower. The explosion was delayed because of rain and lightning, but at 5:30 am, the bomb was detonated. Scientists and military officials were about ten miles from the site of the bomb. Some feared that the bomb might ignite the Earth’s atmosphere and thus cause the death of all living things. Calculations showed that that was highly unlikely. The bomb had the explosive power of 20 kilotons of TNT.When the bomb went off, a shock wave was felt up to 100 miles away from the site, and the mushroom cloud reached 7.5 miles in height. The entire area was illuminated, and the bomb left a crater ten feet deep and 1,100 feet wide. The tower the bomb was on was completely vaporized. As the bomb exploded, Oppenheimer recalled a line from a Hindu scripture, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.President Harry Truman received the satisfactory results of the bomb test. Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. The “Fat Man” bomb used at Nagasaki was the same type as the one used in the Trinity test. Those bombs led to the end of World War II with the surrender of the Japanese, and killed approximately 340,000 people. See the video of the explosion of Trinity on the next page.
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