If you think about it, it's actually pretty incredible that humanity survived the Cold War. For close to 45 years, leaders of the two most powerful countries in the world had their hands hovering just inches above the nuclear launch button. Amazingly enough, not one missile was fired.
That's not to say that there weren't a few close calls, though. Take what happened on May 23, 1967, for example.
By all accounts, it was a day like any other…except for the fact that there was a massive solar storm brewing that no one knew about.
When the U.S. missile defense system suddenly went on the fritz, officials concluded that it must've been the Soviet Union jamming radar ahead of a nuclear strike.
The Air Force planned to send bombers into the air for a little bit of nuclear retaliation. Just minutes before their planes took off, however, the White House ordered officials to stand down.
Turns out it wasn't the Soviets who were jamming the radar. It was actually a series of powerful solar flares throwing highly charged particles into the solar system. These particles then messed with radar signals.
The hero of this story was the newly founded Solar Forecasting Center. They were able to determine with lightning speed the cause of the radar outage and prevent the outbreak of World War III.
(via Unexplained Mysteries)
As I said, it's pretty crazy that humanity even made it through that period of turmoil. Science, you saved the day once again!