While Wellerstein emphasizes that this was a carefully planned nuclear test, with relatively straightforward calculations about how far away the bombers and observation planes needed to be for safety, the pilots of those planes understandably felt some all-too-human trepidation. “There’s these great accounts from some of the pilots of observation planes who had to fly towards the cloud to get readings and things,” Wellerstein told Ars. “One of the guys said, ‘I did it. And it was the most terrifying event in my life.’ And the other guy said, ‘I’m sorry, I wimped out. I turned around, I couldn’t fly towards this monstrous mushroom cloud. I just couldn’t do it at the last minute.'”
The people who saw that detonation learned first-hand what terror for the planet is.