The Most Powerful Explosion In History

Tensions in the Cold War were nearing their peak in the fall of 1961 when the Russians created a bomb they ominously nicknamed “something that has not been seen before,” according to Military.com. This bomb, now known as the Tsar Bomba, lived up to its moniker by unleashing an explosion that had more than 1,500 times the power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined. To this day, it remains the largest explosion ever created.

The power of the bomb was equivalent to around 50 million tons of TNT, per Live Science. It created a deep crater in its barren island test site, and buildings located hundreds of miles away were also destroyed.

The scope of the bomb’s might was no accident. The USSR’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev had been eager to show off the Soviets’ nuclear bomb arsenal, especially since the United States appeared to have the upper hand in the arms race between the two countries.

“The Soviets were trying to do something to tell the world that they were to be reckoned with,” explained Philip Coyle, the former head of U.S. nuclear weapons testing under former President Bill Clinton, per the BBC. “Tsar Bomba was primarily designed to cause the world to sit up and take notice of the Soviet Union as an equal.”

A new declassified video shows the sheer power of the bomb

The Tsar Bomba has received renewed focus after the Russian government recently declassified a video that documented the bomb’s development and destruction. The new footage shows the massive physical size of the bomb, which had the dimensions of a double-decker bus.

The clip also revealed other aspects of its design, including how the bomb was fitted with a parachute to give the aircraft’s pilot, Major Andrei Durnovtsev, time to get away from the blast. Even with the precaution, he was warned that he still had a 50 percent chance of dying in the mission. Though Durnovtsev survived, his plane was thrown 3,000 feet towards the ground during the initial explosion.

Unsurprisingly, the most dramatic part of the clip is the bomb’s detonation, resulting in a massive mushroom cloud. The bomb had a blast radius of 34 miles and a flash that could be seen 630 miles away. If the Tsar Bomba had been dropped in New York City, its flash could have been seen in places spanning from Myrtle Beach in South Carolina to Cincinnati, Ohio.

“It is insane that two men, sitting on opposite sides of the world, should be able to decide to bring an end to civilization,” President John F. Kennedy once remarked in a White House meeting that discussed the consequences of nuclear war, per the JFK Presidential Library.

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