"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weapons in Space? Watch Out Below!

Ah, the wonders of space. Remember the first Sputnik, that cute little Soviet satellite that shocked America . Launched on October 4, 1957, Sputnik was the first man made object to orbit the Earth. The United States, whose space program was having problems getting off the ground (literally), responded with a number of subsequent satellite launches as it ramped up its space program.

Although the American space program has always been portrayed as a civilian program intended to fulfill humankind's need to explore space, the military has always lurked in its shadows; it has always been a dual use program. Military satellites spy on every part of the world and provide communication and coordination of military operations to an extraordinary degree. Those precision guided munitions and pilot less drones would be history without those satellites.

You might have missed the Chinese test in January 2007 where they successfully used a missile to destroy an orbiting satellite. The United States destroyed one of its malfunctioning satellites in February 2008 as a "safety measure" as the government was concerned that a canister containing 1000 pounds of hydrazine might have survived the re-entry of the crippled spy satellite. What a convenient situation to test missile "defense" systems.

One might not get too worked up over shooting down a satellite, except for the fact that it can (depending on its orbit) produce lots of debris that remains in orbit and can put other orbiting craft in danger. Beyond that, there are major implications for the free (and peaceful) use of space by all nations. President Bush authorized a sweeping new space policy in 2006 that intends (among other things) to "ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives" and "enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there." Whoa!

Coupled with U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020, which coined the phrase, "full spectrum dominance" - perhaps some estrogen in the Pentagon's drinking water fountains would help - it seems pretty clear that we are planning to control space lock, stock and elliptical orbit. Aside from the fact that this is a really dangerous strategy, it is sucking up billions of dollars of our tax dollars that should be better spent on peaceful purposes (things like education and health care).

One of the concerns of the current Washington administration is the ability to quickly strike people anywhere in the world in short order should our government deem them a national security threat. The problem is that some countries aren't particularly keen on our using their soil as a base for aircraft that could make such strikes. The solution? The "Common Aero Vehicle", which could take off, boost into orbit, and deliver its deadly payload anywhere in the world within an hour (more estrogen please).

GET INVOLVED: What can we do about the continued militarization of space? Learn more about the issue and get involved at the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, which also sponsors Keep Space for Peace Week from October 4-11 (THIS WEEK!). It won't be easy to stop the militarization of space, but we can have an impact by lobbying Congress to zero out funding for new systems; we have had recent successes with nuclear weapons (the Reliable Replacement Warhead) so we know we can do it!



Click here to read the 2006 Space Policy.

Cick here to read to read Space Weapons: Now, There's a Dumb Idea, an article by Frida Berrigan, a senior research associate at the World Policy Institute’s Arms Trade Resource Center.

The graphic accompanying this posting is from a Scientific American article titled "Space Wars - Coming to the Sky Near You?". Click here to read the full article.

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