Missile Impossible?

This week's $100 million test of the space shield is all but fixed. Does the outcome matter?


On a heavily guarded launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, 125 miles up the Pacific Coast from Los Angeles, a 63-ft.-tall gleaming white rocket sits and waits. Secreted in the nose of the 37-year-old Minuteman II is a 5-ft.-long cone--a mock warhead--and a deflated Mylar balloon. Let's say they are part of an incoming missile from North Korea or Iran. Meanwhile...


About 4,800 miles away on Kwajalein Atoll, perched atop a Pacific coral reef, another rocket sits and waits. Nestled inside its nose cone is a $20 million bullet known as the exoatmospheric kill vehicle. It...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!