Still Training for the End of the World

The U.S. and Russia continue to maintain thousands of nuclear warheads on a hair-trigger alert. It's up to the subterranean sentries of NORAD to spot any incoming threats

Matt Slaby for TIME

Staff monitor intelligence in a command center at the Cheyenne Mountain, home of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Prophecies aside, the first news of the apocalypse will appear on a giant monitor screen in a small control room deep inside Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. Here, in a fortress dug into a mountain high above Colorado Springs, the trip-wire that would once have turned the Cold War very, very hot remains taut, ready to alert America's commander in chief of any incoming missiles. The outlook at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has changed considerably since the collapse of communism dramatically reduced prospects for thermonuclear war — although security remains tight, Cheyenne Mountain is now open to tourists...

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