Operation Morning Light

Operational Histories, No. 3

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

Edited and Introduced by P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Ryan Dean

WHITNEY LACKENBAUER, Ph.D., is Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Study of the Canadian North and professor in the School for the Study of Canada at Trent University, and the Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (1CRPG) based in Yellowknife. Whitney is an adjunct professor at the Center for Arctic Security and Resilience at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Mulroney Institute for Governance at St. Francis Xavier University. Previously, he has been Killam Visiting Scholar at the University of Calgary, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Canadian Forces College, and a Fulbright Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. He has (co-)written or (co-)edited more than fifty books and more than one hundred academic articles and book chapters. His recent books include The Joint Arctic Weather Stations: Science and Sovereignty in the High Arctic, 1946-1972 (2022); A History of the Canadian Rangers of Quebec: 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (2022); The Canadian Armed Forces’ Eyes, Ears, and Voice in Remote Regions: Selected Writings on the Canadian Rangers (2022); Lines in the Snow: Thoughts on the Past and Future of Northern Canadian Policy Issues (2021); On Thin Ice? Perspectives on Arctic Security (2021); Breaking Through: Understanding Sovereignty and Security in the Circumpolar Arctic (2021); and China’s Arctic Engagement: Following the Polar Silk Road to Greenland and Russia (2021). He is married with three children.

Ryan Dean is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of politicial 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).

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