Operation Morning Light

Cosmos 954, a Soviet nuclear-powered satellite launched in September 1977 in Kazakhstan, re-entered the earth’s atmosphere in the early morning hours of 24 January 1978. The United States, which had mobilized its nuclear emergency response team (NEST) in early January, and Canada, which activated its Nuclear Accident Support Team (NAST) on 20 January, responded. Their search activities, under the designation “Operation Morning Light,” determined that radioactive satellite debris had survived re-entry and reached the ground. Their subsequent clean-up operations sought to safeguard the welfare of Northern Canadians living in the affected area. By critically evaluating the methods, equipment, and personnel employed during Morning Light, this recently declassified military report – published for the first time – explains how the combination of civilian scientific expertise with military capabilities succeeded in overcoming large distances across a frigid, subarctic environment to effectively locate and recover the radioactive remnants of Cosmos 954.

P. Whitney Lackenbauer, is Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Study of the Canadian North with the School for the Study of Canada at Trent University. His recent books include Shaping Arctic Policy: The Minutes of the Eskimo Affairs Committee, 1952-62 (co-edited 2019); Familiar Fields to Foreign Soil: Three Rural Townships and the Great War (co-authored 2018); China’s Arctic Ambitions and What They Mean for Canada (co-authored 2018); Roots of Entanglement: Essays in Native-Newcomer Relations (co-edited 2017); and (Re)Conceptualizing Arctic Security: Selected Articles from the Journal of Military and Security Studies (co-edited 2017).

Ryan Dean is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of policial science at the University of Calgary and a fellow at the Centre on Foreign Policy and Federalism at St. Jerome’s University (University of Waterloo), Waterloo, Ontario. His dissertation examines the development of Canadian Arctic policy since the late 1980s. His recent work includes (Re)Conceptualizing Arctic Security: Selected Articles from the Journal of Military and Security Studies (co-edited 2017) and “Conceiving and Executing Operation Gauntlet: The Canadian-Led Raid on Spitzbergen, 1941,” Canadian Military History 26:2 (co-authored 2017).

FlipHTML5 LightBox Embed Demo