Able to launch from its underground silo in just 58 seconds, the Titan II was capable of delivering a 9-megaton nuclear warhead to targets more than 6300 miles (10,000 km) away in about 30 minutes. For more than two decades, 54 Titan II missile complexes across the United States stood “on alert” 24 hours a day, seven days a week, heightening the threat of nuclear war or preventing Armageddon, depending upon your point of view.
— Titan Missile Museum website
If you had any doubt about the masculine nature of this power, and this strategy….
Titan II’s primary mission was deterrence. Deterrence is the art of creating in the mind of the enemy the fear to attack, preventing the start of the war.
— Sign posted at site
The video we watched was entirely cold war, full of ‘the enemy’ this and ‘the enemy’ that. It left me with a visceral hurt. A fear for our future. A quaking at this kind of madness because I can only see people’s faces, imagine their lives and loves and dreams, I cannot imagine an enemy. I was suddenly grateful to Stanislaw Lem, who pushes this thinking as far as it can go to serve as a warning too bitter for real satire (I had just read Peace on Earth, which chimed word for word with the rhetoric here).
It has a terrible logic to it, one you can feel and understand. Yet a logic that at no point meets with or shares anything with the logic by which I live my own life. My own logic that is continuously at risk due to theirs.
Not only did we create a missile capable of destroying this world as we know it, the propulsion system was driven by a mixture of two deadly chemicals, in themselves destructive of our earth.
Inside it is full of old technology, boxes of unknown lights:
The gear I associate with dreams and hopes of space travel, rather than mass destruction, making them eerie in this place:
Technologies to maintain a constant temperature for the sake of the chemicals, to protect the missile so it can be sent even after our own destruction at the hands of the Russian has been assured, to protect the people who must send it:
Everything on springs so the ground rocked by impact of their nuclear missiles, the release of our own nuclear missiles … nothing can be felt, and nothing but a direct hit can destroy this place.
The control room with its fascinating banks of ancient computers and instruments.
The control panel from which the missiles are sent to any one of three targets — no one at this site knows what these targets were. Absolved from responsibility of prior knowledge, crisis of conscience about loved ones, remembered streets, priceless treasures. The tour guide walked us through the launch sequence, the buzzers sounded, just as they would have sounded at the end of the world. Even knowing it was all for show, I can’t describe the feeling this left me with. The way my heart stopped its beating a moment. The sadness.
And the missile itself, the first glimpse with a reminder that no one can ever be alone in this place:
The blunt face of extraordinary violence, terror, death.
The relationship to space exploration technology is so clear I wonder that I ever felt them disentangled, that I ever could have possibly imagined a benign program to explore the stars. The components below evoke SF memories to me, I love metal. You could forget they were designed to kill every human being within 900 square miles of an air blast — because we could chose whether it detonated on impact or at altitude.
You are allowed to see everything, take pictures of everything, ask any question. Because technology has advanced so much we now have far deadlier weapons deployed in very different ways. Probably in many more places. We still stand on the brink of destruction.