Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Man Who Chose to Wait

STEM
Technology
Miscellaneous
Edward Hessler

On May 19, 2017 a former Soviet Union officer died whom I'd never heard one word about. Nothing.

His name was Sanislaw Petrov and he was 77 years old. He had been a lieutenant colonel in the Air Defense System.

It seems fair to say that he was the man who saved the world. 

From what?

As Greg Myre reported for NPR, Petrov was on routine duty monitoring the USSR satellite system. He was rudely interrupted by a what must have been a frightening siren alarm. The screen told him that the U. S. had launched "five nuclear-armed international ballistic missiles." The red screen had a single word on it, LAUNCH.

Petrov chose to wait. He was faced with a number problem. Five missiles, not the many he had been trained to expect in an all-out nuclear attack. Petrov once reported to the BBC, "I couldn't move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan." The window of time from launch to strike was about 20 minutes.

Petrov was working without a rule. There wasn't a rule that said after such and such a time you will report this to the commanders who would launch a counter attack. He checked on whether it was a computer malfunction and continued waiting. "Twenty-three minutes later I realized that nothing had happened," he said in 2013.

This is one way to express relief!

Myre's essay is a thriller and includes a link to a promotional trailer for a Kevin Costner, Robert DeNiro film titled The Man Who Saved the World. It was released in 2015. Rotten Tomatoes has information about the film and has assigned it 3 stars based on 14 reviews.

Movies are one thing; life quite another. 


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