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Cosmos 954

On January 24, 1978, fragments of Cosmos 954, a five-ton Soviet reconnaissance satellite that disintegrated while entering the Earth's atmosphere, fell in a remote part of Canada's Northwest Territories. The primary concern of scientists was to determine the fate of the 100 pounds of uranium-235 that powered the satellite's reactor. On January 28 debris activated by low-level radiation was discovered on the ground, but scientists determined that radiation levels were too low to cause any lasting damage to humans or animals.

On February 4 another piece of debris was recovered from the ice covering Great Slave Lake (below). Scientists reported that the piece emitted 200 roentgens an hour, a dangerous level of radiation that was many times greater than that emitted by the fragments found earlier.

examining debris from Cosmos 954

A Canadian specialist handles radioactive debris from Cosmos 954.
cleaning up Cosmos 954 debris

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The Robinson Library >> In The Year... >> 1978

This page was last updated on January 24, 2019.