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At Havenbrook Atomic Laboratory, just outside of New York City, a dedicated scientist David Loring and his assistant and fiancée Joan Woods pause from work on David's long-time project, code-named "Jobe," a solid fuel rocket intended to carry a hydrogen warhead. Although David's commitment to his work has caused the postponement of his and Joan's wedding several times, he has at last agreed to a hasty ceremony during their lunch break. Joan asks colleague Joe Freed about David's excessive devotion to work, but Joe insists they are all dedicated and adds that he feels especially guilty for being at work when his wife Ella is expecting their baby that day. Unknown to the scientists, a mysterious missile in outer space has provoked the Soviet Union to launch a counter strike to what they believe is an American attack. The Soviet missile inexplicably detonates near the mystery missile, which changes it course, bringing it inside Earth's atmosphere. After Soviet military analysts conclude that the unidentified missile is not American, they track it over the North Pole, noting that it incinerates everything in its wake, and send out a warning to Canada and the U.S. As the missile enters American monitored airspace, CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command, security and defense center receives a report from the Northern Canadian defense early warning station in the path of the missile, stating that one of its scout planes relayed a photo of the missile, then disappeared. Meanwhile, David and Joan search for wedding rings at a jeweler in the city on their lunch break, still unaware of the missile crisis. Disturbed by David's apathetic and restless air however, Joan abruptly calls off the wedding and returns to Havenbrook. Despondent over the situation with Joan, David returns to Havenbrook where Joe excitedly relays that the nation's Joint Chiefs of Staff have inexplicably placed the entire Eastern seaboard on a yellow alert status. As the scientists' concern mounts, David concludes that New York City is under a serious threat when he is ordered to standby to "drown" the lab's atomic pile. After hearing David's news, Joan wonders if a war is imminent. Moments later, Joe excitedly relays that the laboratory has been sealed, making it impossible for them to depart or for him to contact Ella. Hoping to calm Joe, Joan gets a call through to Ella, but after Joe's first words, they are disconnected. Joe and David are then ordered by laboratory head General Barr to an emergency briefing of the lab's top scientists. Barr shows the scientists the photo transmitted from Canada of the rogue missile, which travels at over 4,000 miles an hour, and informs them that the missile is headed towards Ottawa and New York City. When questioned by Barr, David and Joe concur that the missile design is unlike any they have seen and cannot identify what nation would have the capacity to construct it. The scientists are then told they will be evacuated to an underground bunker immediately as the rocket will reach New York in a little over an hour. When nations around the world disclaim knowledge of the mystery rocket, Canada and America hastily make joint preparations to attack the missile with a battery of aircraft. A Canadian jet squadron intercepts the missile, but is quickly incinerated. At Havensbrook, David refuses evacuation, frustrated at being unable to provide a plan against the rogue missile. Although anxious over the looming disaster, Joan tells David that Joe is desperate to be united with Ella. Suddenly hitting upon an idea to utilize Jobe to stop the relentless missile, David races across the base to intercept Barr. Upon hearing David's proposal, Barr protests that Jobe is unfinished, but David insists he can attach a "baby" warhead, a trigger for the atomic fuse, to the rocket within twenty minutes. With no other option, Barr agrees. As the missile closes in on Ottawa, New York is placed under martial law and the civilian defense guides the public into shelters. While David prepares Jobe, an hysterical Joe, who has unsuccessfully pleaded with base security to reach Ella, bursts in to tell him that he believes the missile is extra-terrestrial and should not be destroyed but studied. David fights off Joe's attempts to stop him, then as he hastens to Jobe with the fuse, Joe sneaks out of the sealed grounds. Later, Joan insists on accompanying David to the launch site and Barr escorts them in another jeep. Although the road to the launch pad has beem closed, a panicked civilian races down the road toward David and the others and crashes, sending Barr's jeep off the road. While Barr stays behind with his damaged jeep, David and Joan go on alone. Further down the road, a group of teenagers waiting with their stalled car force David to pull over and steal the jeep, disregarding David and Joan's warnings of the danger of the atomic fuse box. With only moments left to get to Jobe, David and Joan walk quickly toward their jeep and discover it abandoned down the road. Realizing that the fuse box has been opened, David pushes Joan away and, fatally exposing himself to the deadly plutonium radiation, drives to the launch site alone. As Ottawa is incinerated and the missile heads to New York, David arrives at the launch pad. He manages to install the fuse on Jobe, then collapses and dies as the missile is launched. As Joe at last joins Ella and their new baby in a bomb shelter, Jobe strikes and destroys the killer rogue missile.