A failed Russian missile test lit up the sky over northern Norway early Wednesday morning. The third stage of a Bulava missile, Russia’s latest generation of submarine-launched ballistic missile, malfunctioned during the test flight, causing the missile to spin out of control and creating a huge, pinwheel-like light show for the bewildered witnesses on the ground.
Once operational, the missiles will be carried on Russia’s newest missile submarines, currently in production. Each submarine will carry 16 Bulavas, and each missile will carry up to 6 independently targetable nuclear warheads.
Although it was almost certainly a coincidence, the test took place just one day before U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Norway’s capital, Oslo, to accept the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Between them, the United States and Russia account for 96% of the world’s total stockpile of about 23,000 nuclear weapons.