The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Launched 60 years ago today, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. Its atomic fuel source gave for the U.S Navy a dramatic increase in both range and operational flexibility. A few years later, the USS Nautilus achieved another historical first: she was the first vessel to complete a submerged transit to the North Pole, on 3 August 1958.

Our commemorative photo collection offers a glimpse into the first years of the USS Nautilus, to the life on board and under the sea.

Jan. 21, 1954: spectators gather around the nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus during a christening ceremony.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: U.S. Navy


First lady Mamie Eisenhower christens the USS Nautilus.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: U.S. Navy


The Nautilus slips into the Thames River.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: U.S. Navy


The USS Nautilus in the Thames River shortly after a christening ceremony.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: U.S. Navy


The Nautilus sets out to sea on a trial run.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: Keystone/Getty Images


On sea trials.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: U.S. Navy/National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons


Official board the USS Nautilus at the electric boat division of the General Dynamics Corp. on Aug. 30, 1954, for the commissioning ceremony placing the world's first atomic-powered submarine in the service of the U.S. Navy.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: AP


A windowless warehouse in the Atomic Energy Commission's National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho, where scientists tested the prototype of the atomic engine of the USS Nautilus.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: Keystone/Getty Images


Submarine Thermal Reactor No. 45 was the prototype power plant for the nation’s first nuclear submarine.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: Idaho National Laboratory


Navy personnel stationed in Idaho Falls, Idaho, in the mid 1950s learn how to operate the Nautilus S1W, the prototype of the Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: Idaho National Laboratory/energy.gov


C1955: Eugene Wilkinson, commander of the world's first nuclear powered vessel, points out the dates and battle actions of the ships that previously bore the name Nautilus.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images


C1955: Admiral Robert B Carney puts a nickel into the jukebox on board the USS Nautilus. The money went toward the submarine's recreation fund.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images


1956: Lieutenant Commander John H. Ebersole, Medical Corps, uses chemical separation of radioactive isotopes, determines source of radiation in the nucleonics laboratory aboard USS Nautilus. Ebersole was responsible for the radiation hygiene and safety of its officers and crew.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: U.S. Navy BUMED Library and Archives


Lookout on the bridge keeps an alert watch for pieces of ice as the Nautilus presses closer to the Polar ice cap, circa August 1958.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: Naval History and Heritage Command


Arriving at New York City in 1958.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: U.S. Navy


Detail of plaque commemorating the July/August 1958 voyage to the North Pole. U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Photo and caption: David Franzen/Library Of congress


"The beginning of an Era" – brochure cover.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years AgoS

Pdf: NavSource


General Dynamics postcard, c1955.

The World's First Nuclear Submarine Was Launched 60 Years Ago

Image: Postcards Etcetera