I’d be lying if I told you that one of the main draws in coming to Kwajalein was anything other than the chance to channel my inner James Bond. Any tropical island can get one feeling a step closer to achieving double-0 status, but Kwaj takes it to the next level.
First things first, you need government permission just to step foot onto this small rock in the middle of the Pacific. Kwajalein atoll is home to the Reagan Test Range run by the Space and Missile Defense Command of the US Army, essentially a place for the US and her allies to try out their long-range missiles and defenses. Kwajalein island holds the main air strip on the atoll and is the hub of the US presence here, housing the majority of range workers and support staff (myself & Michelle included).
Roi-Namur is the other main operation center in the atoll with some of the world’s largest radars used to track all types of things in space. The biggest radar, Altair, literally looks like it came out of the Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond flick, GoldenEye. There are a variety of different missions that are conducted from Kwajalein. Day to day, the radars track space junk and other things that we should know about around the earth. This summer, NASA conducted different missions from Roi as they tried to understand the ionosphere better. Their launches released tiny particles into the air at sun down to try and understand GPS disruptions. A bright red spot appeared about 3x the size of the moon in the night sky. It was trippy. I was able to grab a picture of the slightly less impressive launch a few days later.
Recently, we’ve had a number of other missions which involve missiles being launched into the mid atoll corridor, a string of less inhabited islands that they clear out during the test window. Sometimes, the test tries to shoot down the incoming missile and other times we act as the grid that they try to hit. Last weekend, a missile with three warheads came in and could be seen from the northern part of the island. To be honest, I was a bit shaken seeing what the end of the world could look like.
Shaken, not stirred.