I was on a shuttle, returning to Earth with a small group of astronauts. As we circled the planet, I had the uncanny feeling that we were in a little toy ship in a pitch black room circling a plastic globe with a bright reading lamp shining down on it. I could even see all the names and borders drawn on all the different countries. There was a stillness over it all.
We were over the United States when the first mushroom cloud appeared. It burst like a puff of dirt off the surface of the globe without making a sound, but it did nothing to disturb the glossy surface or the inscriptions or the lines of topography. It was like witnessing a strategy for ending the world in someone’s war room, rather than seeing the actual thing. Europe rolled away under us, and then on to Russia and the East, the mushroom clouds popping randomly in the landscape ahead of us. There would be nowhere to land, no home to return to.