Who is Outrider?

Outrider believes that the global challenges we face together must be solved by working together.

Among the greatest threats to the future of humankind are nuclear weapons and global climate change. Outrider makes the bold claim that both threats can be overcome — and not just by policy makers but by people with the right tools and inspiration.

Chapter 2

Nuclear History: The Cold War

Mounting tension in an increasingly nuclear world

A large black mushroom cloud is visible against a light-grey clouded sky.
AUGUST 29, 1949

Soviet Union’s first nuclear test

The USSR detonates RDS-1, “First Lightning,” at a test site in northeast Kazakhstan. The United States and United Kingdom are taken by surprise—Soviet nuclear science was further advanced than either nation knew.

OCTOBER 3, 1952

The United Kingdom’s first nuclear test

An explosion and mushroom cloud light up a dark purple sky, over a calm ocean.
NOVEMBER 1, 1952

The U.S. tests the first hydrogen bomb

The United States detonated “Ivy Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb. Hydrogen bombs, or H-bombs, are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Duck and Cover

DECEMBER 8, 1953

Eisenhower delivers the Atoms for Peace speech

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the United Nations General Assembly, calling for a future where atomic energy is used for peaceful purposes, not war. These ideas are the seeds for the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nonproliferation Treaty.

MARCH 1, 1954

The Castle Bravo Test

At 6:45am, a flash and a fireball four and a half miles wide lit up the pre-dawn sky. It was hotter than the surface of the sun.

Taiwan Strait Crisis

In March 1955, President Eisenhower publicly threatened to launch nuclear strikes against China. He was hoping to deter an attack on Taiwan and to stop the shelling of Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces on outlying islands. It didn’t work.

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OCTOBER 4, 1957

The Soviet Union launches Sputnik

The satellite was the first object launched into orbit around the Earth. It began the space race between the United States and Soviet Union—a less deadly proxy competition for the arms race.

Project Iceworm

Climate change may uncover a Cold War project left beneath the Arctic ice for generations.

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First French nuclear test
FEBRUARY 13,1960

France’s First Nuclear Test

The first French nuclear explosion, codenamed “Gerboise Bleue,” took place in the Algerian Sahara. It brought the total number of nuclear-armed nations to four. 

OCTOBER 30, 1961

The U.S.S.R. detonates ‘Tsar Bomba’

The most powerful nuclear weapon ever tested was detonated over a remote island in the Russian Arctic. Andrei Sakharov, one of the Russian scientists behind the bomb, would later become a dissident and a nonproliferation activist.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Over the course of thirteen days in October 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

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Cold War treaties

AUGUST 5, 1963

The U.S., Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty which bans nuclear tests in outer space, the atmosphere, or underwater.

MARCH 5, 1970

The Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, promote peaceful nuclear energy, and move towards complete disarmament.

MAY 26, 1972

The United States and the U.S.S.R. sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limited both nations to just two sites with defenses against strategic ballistic missiles, an ICBM base and the national capitol. In 1974 a follow-on protocol changed the agreement so that only one site was allowed.

MAY 26, 1972

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) interim agreement limits the number of anti-ballistic missile sites and land- and sea-launched nuclear missiles in the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

JUNE 18, 1979

The United States and the U.S.S.R. sign the SALT II Treaty. It was meant to replace SALT I with a more comprehensive treaty—but was never implemented.

DECEMBER 8, 1987

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty commits the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to eliminating nuclear and conventional missiles with a range of 500 km to 5,500 km.


China, Israel, and India become nuclear states

Three more countries became nuclear powers in the decade between 1964 and 1974.

The Nuclear Freeze Movement

A grassroots movement of concerned citizens took a stand against the nuclear arms race—and was heard.

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President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev in discussion, seated at a table in a meeting room in Reykjavik, Iceland.
OCTOBER 11–12, 1986

Reykjavik Summit

As nuclear stockpiles were reaching an all-time peak, the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union met in Iceland to discuss reducing them. The meeting was a turning point, paving the way for real reductions in both countries’ arsenals.

NOVEMBER 9, 1989

The Cold War ends

Dissent and anti-Communist demonstrations across Eastern Europe culminate in the destruction of the Berlin Wall—and an end to the decades-long Cold War.

NOVEMBER 9, 1989

The fall of the Berlin Wall

Chapter 3

Nuclear History: The Current Era

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