One of the first things that Apocalypse does to demonstrate his power is to

mind-control the people in charge of all of the Earth's nuclear missiles, and have them all launched directly into space.

It's never explained what's going to happen to all of them after the movie ends. Are they going to crash back to Earth over time, and will they be intact if they do? Could this result in nations scrambling to collect them?

It seems unlikely that they will explode in space without targets, but it’s possible, which could lead to nuclear fallout.

What's what's the forseeable aftermath of this world-wide event?

  • As of the end of that scene, Earth has been fully disarmed of nukes. That is likely one of Apocalypse's goals - destroying humanity's only serious means of threatening him. Charles' insistence at destroying Cerebra by any means and at any cost suggests that there is more to it than we see - remember that Charles has a psychic connection with Apoc, so the former can read the latter's mind to a limited degree. Jun 1, 2016 at 20:57
  • 1
    Fallout usually refers to irradiated normal material (dirt and rock) that were in the blast area, and thrown high up into the atmosphere. In space the only fallout would whatever remained of the actual weapons, and that fell back to earth. So not much more than a windy day in Colorado. :)
    – Seeds
    Jun 1, 2016 at 21:20
  • I think this can be divided into several sub-questions: 1. What types of WMD missiles were launched — the entire stock of all nations would likely include A-bombs, H-bombs, dirty bombs, bio-WMDs, etc. 2. Where did they end up — did they drop back to Earth, start orbiting Earth as artificial satellites (IIRC, this was what the scene showed them doing), or flying further into space? 3. What’s the risk of them accidentally triggering later, on their own? 4. Which parts of them can potentially be recycled for creating new WMDs (i.e. nuclear material decay \ viral outbreaks orchestration, etc)?
    – Imfego
    Jun 1, 2016 at 21:28

5 Answers 5


Depends on how scientific you want to be. Admittedly, I haven't seen the movie yet, so there may be a factor I've missed, but:

Most likely, the weapons will eventually crash back down to Earth.

This is due to the fact that, as seen in an answer to this question from Space Exploration,

Given that breaking free of Earth's gravity, which would be necessary in order to reach the Sun, requires a higher velocity than attaining Earth orbit, and by implication of the SALT II agreement no current ICBMs are able to attain even Earth orbit, we can conclude that no matter the transfer orbit trickery involved, no current ICBMs have the capability to target the Sun.

The "targeting the Sun" part aside, the answer is quite clear about the fact that ICBMs lack the power to achieve orbit, much less escape the Earth's gravity and drift off into space. The SALT II Treaty mentioned in the quote, which bans orbital nuclear weapons, was signed in 1979, 4 years before the movie's 1983 setting.

As such, unless the Cold War proceeded very differently in the movie's universe, to the point of Orbital ICBM development, the missiles will eventually return to Earth. Very few will likely explode, as it doesn't appear that Apocalypse armed the missiles before firing. Some will burn up in the atmosphere, and some will survive to impact the surface, but the end result in both cases is fallout, radioactive contamination, and an environmental disaster in a scale unprecedented in human history as the missiles spill their contents in the air, water, and on land.

  • 2
    This really depends on how many of them fell back to earth and what their condition became. many will just bury themselves and cause no real issue. The ones burned up in the atmosphere would rain down a small amount of radiation, but not really a whole lot, and spread over a large area. The biggest deal would be the actual sites where some pieces fell to earth.
    – methuseus
    Jun 2, 2016 at 5:00

It's not a realistic scenario. To leave earth and stay gone, you have to go at least into orbit. That requires a minimum speed of 6.5 km/s, and that assumes you can launch from an optimal point on the surface. These missiles are not at those optimal points, so it's probably closer to 8 or 9 km/s. I haven't found hard data, but what numbers I've seen don't indicate ICBMs go that fast. Alternately, you could try to escape Earth's gravity well entirely, but that takes much more energy than just entering orbit does.

Nuclear missiles are not typically intended to put things in orbit. Just launching into space and coming back down requires much less energy, and thus less fuel. And the rocket equation tells us that every bit of additional fuel you have to carry adds weight, and thus adds even more fuel. It doesn't make sense to build ICBMs with enough extra fuel to get into orbit; you lose out on cost, size, and speed, for no gain on the actual job.

In short, those nukes are coming back to earth. But that doesn't mean they're going to detonate. Nuclear explosives aren't particularly easy to set off. (Thank goodness.) Odds are, they'll crash back into the earth at uncontrolled locations, but none of the nuclear explosives will actually go critical. With no attitude control, it's even possible some or most will burn up in the atmosphere.

Now, all the radioactive material being spread everywhere is going to suck. But hey, what's that going to do? Create more mutants!

  • 1
    Or give nuclear explosives to all sorts of random groups.
    – xdhmoore
    Jun 2, 2016 at 4:58
  • "Now, all the radioactive material being spread everywhere is going to suck. But hey, what's that going to do? Create more mutants!" Uh no, it won't. Radioactivity does not turn you into a mutant. In the Marvel universe, mutants are a subspecies of human born with the X-Gene. Mutants don't become mutants by being blasted with radioactive fallout, they are born mutants. And before someone mentions Spiderman/Hulk/Deadpool, those aren't mutants either. They are known as mutates, which is a very different concept.
    – arkon
    Sep 27, 2016 at 0:04

Every answer here so far seems to be overlooking a key piece of evidence: Colonel Stryker already told us what happened.

After capturing Mystique and company, Stryker specifically tells them, "A psychic event just destroyed every nuke from here to Moscow." Destroyed can mean exploded, rendered inoperable, etc. So wherever they are, the film directly indicates that they are no longer a threat.

And even if they did eventually rain down from the sky, the world is speckled with mutants. Some of which (e.g. Magneto) are uniquely qualified to contain such an event.


I think the intention behind Apocalypse's action is that the missiles were launched straight out into space, where they would float off, away from Earth's gravity, forever.

At least half of them will end up heading towards the sun, where they'll just burn up; the rest will likely encounter another large object (e.g. one of the outer planets) and be pulled into their atmosphere and be crushed.

In any case, I don't think any of the warheads will be an issue for Earth anymore; I'm pretty sure that was the whole point of Apocalypse's exercise in the first place.

  • IIRC the last we see of the missiles, they are just kind of floating close to earth, rockets dead; which is what made me ask the question. Jun 1, 2016 at 20:44

From what i'm reading this has been answered:

-ICBM's don't have the thrust to achieve orbit so every one of those missiles is coming back down.

-ICBM's have security features meaning an unarmed bomb striking the planet will not detonate, barring freak incidents.

In other words, problem solved, the X-Men saved the day.

However, I also see a lot of speculation regarding En sabah nur's intent with the missiles, which I found to be fairly obvious. In the scenes just preceding that one we are told that following the arrival of Nur to an area there is always an apocalyptic event wiping life from said area. Then, During the nuke scene we are given a lengthy speech (by nur himself) regarding how vastly superior these weapons of war are to those he used to proliferate death in his time "No more swords, no more spears, no more stones or slings, etc." His tone is exuberant, not fearful.

This coupled with Xavier's reaction of "immediately sever this connection at any cost" implies, heavily(in my mind guarantees), that Nur launched those nukes with the sole intention of sending them right back down, armed, to kill every human on earth who couldn't survive it.

This keeps in line with Shaw's plan in first class so please don't jump me saying it's far-fetched to believe that nur and his followers/other mutants would survive the cataclysm. Even if they actually couldn't, it's still just as likely that nur was convinced that they could, just as shaw had been.

It also keeps in line with plot of the whole movie: an ancient evil intent on dealing death has resurfaced in the modern era with access to unprecedented power. The two major forces that the heroes fight to keep out of his reach are nuclear weapons and Xavier's full cognitive telepathic control.

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