It could dive longer, faster, and deeper than any submarine before it.
The USS Nautilus, commissioned on this day in 1954, wasn't limited in range and speed by the diesel engines of previous submarines. Also, with a nuclear reactor, there was no need to surface to recharge batteries.
Because of the new-found larger range, the Nautilus was the first submarine to travel under the Arctic ice and cross the North Pole. As a matter of fact, in her first years of operation, the Nautilus broke many records. There were also a few shortcomings in design that engineers eagerly learned from; the later generations of nuclear submarines were improved versions.
She was retired in 1980 and now serves as a museum of submarine history in Groton, Connecti-cut.
Watch a video to learn about nuclear power. This one is for older students,
and younger kids might prefer this one.
Find out more about nuclear submarines at How Stuff Works.
I found this short video odd because there is no narrator—just a musical sound track—and because, once in a while, someone is on-camera, talking—but we don't hear what he is saying! Still, the video does give you a great idea of the tight quarters and some of the “bustle” of living on a nuclear submarine!