Causes of False Missile Alerts: The Sun, the Moon and a 46-Cent Chip

As emotional and disruptive as the false alert was, it was not the most dangerous episode of its kind because it did not reach the military’s chain of command or decision-makers in government, he said.

Here is a look at a few cases when it did:

Photo

The command post for North American Aerospace Defense Command operations in 1982. In 1960, Norad was sent to its maximum alert level because of a “moonrise over Norway.”

Oct. 5, 1960: The moon tricks a radar

A false alarm came when an early warning radar in Greenland reported to North American Air Defense Command headquarters that it had detected dozens of inbound Soviet missiles.

The report thrust Norad to its maximum alert level, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, but officials later determined that the radar had been fooled by the “moonrise over Norway.”

Nov. 9, 1979: A ‘war game’ tape causes six minutes of worry

Computers at Norad indicated that the United…

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