This presentation examines top-secret military experiments conducted by US and Soviet cold warriors between 1958 and 1962 aimed at disrupting the magnetosphere using nuclear weapons. So-called space bombs were heavy-handed and not-to-be-repeated interventions aimed at weaponizing outer space. Nevertheless, the detonations themselves, the damage they caused to land- and space-based infrastructure, and the life spans of their radioactive debris led to new scientific understanding of Earth's geomagnetic environment.
I know of no more dramatic historical example of the discovery of a new phenomenon (the Van Allen Belts) followed by immediate attempts to disrupt it. Of course intervention is often part of scientific practice, but exploding nuclear weapons in the magnetosphere constituted a purposeful and quite reckless intervention in a hitherto unknown and poorly understood global feature. This story is relevant today because nuclear explosions in space by the US and the Soviet Union constituted some of the earliest attempts at geo-engineering, or intentional human intervention in planetary-scale processes.