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Atomic Age Declassified

All Episodes 2019

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  • Ended
  • Smithsonian Channel
  • 2019-06-17T01:00:00Z
  • 50 mins
  • 2 hours, 32 mins (3 episodes)
  • United States
  • English
  • Documentary
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There’s a reason they called it theoretical physics. No one really knew for sure what would happen when we split the atom. At Los Alamos, the famous scientist Enrico Fermi jokingly suggested a bet: the bomb would ignite the atmosphere – and end all life on earth. Not everyone thought it was funny. The sky didn’t catch fire, but the mushroom cloud over the New Mexico desert that day cast a long shadow. It began an explosive era of secrecy and fear that we still live with today. ATOMIC AGE DECLASSIFIED tells the untold stories of a time that brought us to the edge of human possibility – and the verge of total annihilation – more times than we ever knew.
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3 episodes

1x01 Born with the Bomb

  • Series Premiere

    2019-06-17T01:00:00Z — 51 mins

In the BORN WITH THE BOMB episode, the flash of the first atomic blasts exposes a multi-billion dollar clandestine operation: The Manhattan Project. A modern state secrecy apparatus emerges directly out of Los Alamos – only to find itself immediately compromised as Russia announces its own atomic arsenal. Was Ethel Rosenberg framed by her own brother? Who conspired to bring down Robert Oppenheimer, father of the bomb? Suspicion comes to define the Atomic Age – and justify some of its darkest moments, including… Radiation testing on unsuspecting civilians. An 800 page American World War III battle plan that targeted 600 million civilians. Broken Arrows. And the real stories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when what both sides didn’t know almost killed everyone.

1x02 Spies in Space

  • 2019-06-24T01:00:00Z — 51 mins

In the SPIES IN SPACE episode, we see that sometimes, secrecy did have its benefits. Just two years ago, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) declassified a top-secret 1960s program to put a manned spy platform into orbit. It was called MOL, a fitting acronym for the secretive Manned Orbiting Laboratory. While Apollo got all the attention and the glory in its race to the Moon, the men and women behind MOL worked in the shadows to give America the eyes and ears it needed to navigate an increasingly dangerous world. After 50 years of secrecy, SPIES IN SPACE will be the first television program to weave together rarely seen footage from America’s secret spy satellite systems with interviews from experts and MOL crew members themselves to tell the story of the space race’s unsung heroes.

1x03 Filming the Bomb

  • 2019-07-01T01:00:00Z — 50 mins

The FILMING THE BOMB episode reveals the ways cameras became as important as the weapons themselves. In 2017, the U.S. released films from a generation of nuclear tests -- allowing scientists to study the last images of thermonuclear explosions we hope we’ll ever see. But just getting them took years of trying – and dozens of nuclear explosions. In Los Angeles, a secret film studio, Lookout Mountain, staffed by Hollywood professionals, produced countless films aimed at diverse audiences from policymakers to soldiers, scientists to civilians. The goal: convince anyone who will listen – including themselves – that they knew how to wield this new power. Many of these films are being made public for the first time ever, shedding new light on one of the darkest and most dangerous times in history. New waves of declassified films, photographs and documents are telling us more than we ever knew about the Cold War.

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