Action at Tidbinbilla, Australia

29 April 2005

From: Gareth Smith


12 of us made the 40 min drive through the hills to reach the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla. Once in the Visitors' Centre we switched off the speakers for the film that was running and strung a line across the stage on which we hung our banners. 

Gareth handed out chalk and soon the carpet-tiled floor was covered with statements that pointed up the militarisation & nuclearisation of NASA. A Chubb security guard arrived and flew at Ben Smith grabbing his throat in a choke hold and collapsing him to the floor.  I had to pry the guard's fingers from Ben's throat as he could not breathe.

Glen Nagle, the Raytheon employed base manager arrived with his sidekick and interrupted my speech continuously to which members of the public were listening.  Glen strenuously denied that Tidbinbilla did anything military and insisted that the focus of their dishes was a million kms so they could not monitor near Earth space. Mark spotted a dish capable of rapid reorientation and said this function would not be needed if objects in deep space only were being monitored.  Glen then admitted that they did monitor Earth's polar regions and that they had monitored shuttle flights in the 1980s which did carry DoD payloads.

Conclusion: Glen Nagle agreed to work with us in designing an exhibit which would detail our concerns but it had to be "appropriate".  AAP took up our press release and sent the story down the wire.  It was a good day with comradeship in sunny, sylvan conditions.

Arming the Heavens
for the Canberra Times, May 9:

About 15 protesters representing the Canberra Program for Peace, OzPeace, the Australian Anti-bases Campaign Coalition and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (GN) occupied the Visitors' Centre at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), Tidbinbilla on April 29 to draw attention to the accelerating militarisation and nuclearisation of space in which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plays a key role. The action coincided with Full Spectrum Resistance, the annual conference of the GN in New York. NASA has always portrayed itself as civilian and only engaged in the peaceful exploration of the Cosmos but GN member Gareth Smith remembers NASA’s representative in Australia, Dick Colonna, telling him in 1989 that Tidbinbilla had monitored a military satellite over Hawaii which was testing green/blue lasers in the detection of nuclear submarines. Tidbinbilla’s manager Glen Nagle (employed by Raytheon, a top arms manufacturer) confirmed it had also covered space shuttle flights but maintained that there was no military connection, even though it is a matter of record that secret military payloads were carried. Protesters were jubilant over Mr Nagle’s offer to submit an "appropriate" exhibit outlining their concerns for display in the Visitors' Centre.

President Bush stated that US military and commercial dominance of space is an absolute national priority (January 14, 2004, Moon, Mars and Beyond ). America's civilian and military space programs are converging, with the extra funding which Bush proposed for manned flight to Mars likely to accelerate this. Former NASA director, Sean O’Keefe, said that NASA was looking forward to providing agency resources for the “war on terror” and that from now on all space missions had to be considered "dual purpose" i.e. military and civilian.

NASA claims that the New Horizons project to Pluto, like the Cassini/ Saturn mission with 32kgs of plutonium onboard, must use nuclear power. Nuclearised space will thus become commonplace, making it easier to loft reactors necessary to supply the huge power requirements of space-based laser weapons. The prospect of orbiting Chernobyls falling to Earth or exploding on the launch pad like Columbia, does not seem to deter these self-styled Masters of Space. Their vision is of “Full Spectrum Dominance” through which Earth will be controlled in the interests of the US; military or commercial space competitors (friend or foe) will be “denied” space access if they do not conform to US interests.

Australia is heavily involved in the militarization of space even though this clashes with our ratification of the Treaty on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the 1979 Moon Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. NASA facilities and the biggest CIA base outside America, Pine Gap, are only part of the picture. The Howard government have signed up to an enormous financial commitment (unspecified) to participate in National Missile Defence (aka the Son of Star Wars) which is actually an aggressive first strike system having very little to do with protecting civilians. Through the Australian Hypersonics Initiative the Australian National University and the universities of New South Wales at the Defence Force Academy and Queensland are collaborating in a $4.6 million contract with (DARPA) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to conduct scramjet experiments at Mach 10, or about 11,000km an hour, at Woomera, South Australia. The University of Queensland UQ News Online states that this research could deliver 2 hour flights Sydney-London, not mentioned though are its military applications. DARPA is developing a hypersonic edge-of-space bomber (FALCON) which can take off from any airfield and carry 12,000 lbs of nuclear/conventional weapons anywhere in the world in 2 hours. The bombs would hit Earth targets at hypersonic velocity and be able to penetrate to great depth before exploding.

Last month NASA and the Pentagon collaborated in testing the robotic DART spacecraft which zeroed in on a military satellite and, later this year, there are plans to launch a killer satellite . These steps toward war in space must be stopped. The Federation of American Scientists have proposed an international monitoring agency like the International Atomic Energy Agency which would verify absence of weapons before satellite launch. The Australian government should support this.

A majority of Australians feel Australia subordinates its foreign policy and strategic objectives to those of the US; they want Australia to focus on what is good for this country. We are already mired in the Iraq debacle thanks to the Howard government’s blind acceptance of badly flawed US intelligence and now we are complicit in arming the heavens. The time is long past when we must demand an immediate halt to this collaboration in infamy.


The above article appeared in the Canberra Times on May 23:-


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