$25 Billion (2008 dollars)
At the Alamogordo Bombing Range, now the White Sands Missile Range near Socorro, New Mexico, it was 5:00 a.m. The weather that morning of July 16, 1945 was clear and most importantly; wind conditions were low, ideal for localizing the fallout of radioactive material from the expected cloud of debris. Many high-level scientists and military personnel waited anxiously at scattered sites around ground zero and from bunkers ten and seventeen miles away.
The First Blast
Suddenly, at 5:29 a.m., the morning calm was broken by an enormous flash that lit up the surrounding mountains and could be seen as far as 150 miles. At the same time, an enormous explosion rumbled across the desert as a huge orange fireball, expanding into a pulsating red as it cooled, began shooting upward at around 360 feet per second. This was quickly followed by a swirling mushroom-shaped cloud that reached an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 feet above ground zero. Called the Trinity Test, this 18-20-kiloton blast was the culmination of years of research and development that ushered in the so-called Atomic Age.
Early Development And Experiments
The development of the Atomic Bomb was actually the result of a convergence of political and scientific events beginning in the 1930s. The advances in understanding the nature of the atom and its role as a source for immense amounts of energy coincided with the rise of fascist governments in Europe. These parallel activities aroused much fear that Nazi Germany could become technologically capable of developing a weapon that used the recently discovered nuclear fission techniques.
The earlier experiments of the 1930s were instrumental in discovering methods for spitting the uranium atom. These discoveries pointed out that splitting the nucleus of a single uranium atom was possible by bombarding the atom with neutrons. By splitting the atom’s nucleus large amounts of energy, equivalent to 200,000,000 electron volts, could be released as well as additional neutrons, a process called nuclear fission. This release of nuclear energy was the conversion of about .1 percent of the mass of the uranium atom into energy, as previously postulated by Albert Einstein.
Fears Of Germany Splitting The Atom First
There was also the possibility that these additional freed neutrons, under specific conditions, could trigger a nuclear chain reaction which had the potential of releasing even greater amounts of energy. It was this scenario that prompted wide spread fears within the scientific community that grave consequences could result if Nazi Germany became the first to use this new nuclear technology.