28 June 2005
Space Weapons are really a Terrible Idea
by Karl Grossman
Times Record Contributor

The White House is expected in coming weeks to declare space a new arena of war. It is anticipated that the Bush administration will give the go-ahead to long-developing strategy to -­ as U.S. military plans explicitly state ­- “control” the “ultimate high ground” of space and from it “dominate” the planet below.

Indeed, after expending billions of dollars in preparation -­ especially for the Star Wars program of the Reagan era -- the United States has the technology to move into space with weapons. But that the United States will end up as the only nation up there is a huge miscalculation.

A tragic mistake is in the making that will lead to an arms race in space and no nation having any advantage. The United States can be first to deploy weapons in space, but then, in response, China and Russia -­ and who knows what other nation next will be up there, too.

Vast amounts of financial resources will have to be expended by the citizens of all these countries -­ money desperately needed for medical care, education, the environment and all the other great wants on Earth. And, it will divert resources from the war on terrorism.

Just a few decades ago, the United States joined with the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union to prevent the weaponization of space. The three nations put together a visionary document: the Outer Space Treaty, enacted in 1967 and now ratified by most of the nations on Earth.

“Inspired by the great prospects opening up before mankind” as a result of the “entry into outer space, recognizing the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of space for peaceful purposes,” it prohibits the placement of “nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction” in space.

In recent years, our neighbor, Canada, has led -­ along with Russia and China -­ efforts to broaden the treaty and ban all weapons in space.

The United States has opposed this and would now break the Outer Space Treaty by deploying weapons of mass destruction. One U.S. program, nicknamed “Rods From God,” would hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium at targets on Earth each striking with the force of a “small” nuclear weapon. That’s a weapon of mass destruction.

And to other nations responding and meeting us in kind in space, a high U.S. diplomat told me as he prepared to vote at the United Nations against a resolution barring all space weapons, U.S. military analyses have determined China is “30 years behind” in competing with the U.S. militarily in space, and Russia “doesn’t have the money.” I recounted travels in China, observing its technological strength, noted its space prowess, and pointed to the enormous space capabilities of Russia. A big error is being made, I said. He disagreed.

In recent weeks, there have been declarations that China and Russia would counter with force if the United States moves to weaponize space. If “we find ourselves in a situation where we need to react, of course we will do it,” said a Russian official.

Moreover, consider if space is armed and there is a shooting war with laser weapons and hypervelocity guns and particle beams (a preferred energy source: on-board nuclear power) and other weapons exchanging fire. There would be so much debris left orbiting at high speed above the planet that humanity would be precluded for millennia from again getting up and out and exploring space. As Edgar Mitchell, a former astronaut who walked on the moon, has said: “Getting out to deep space would be like swimming in a piranha-full river or running through a hail of bullets.”

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, says the proposed new Bush National Space Policy Directive must be “met with a resounding chorus that says we will not allow this plan for space warfare to go forward.”

People must demand warfare not be allowed to extend to the heavens.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, is author of “Weapons In Space” (Seven Stories Press) and host of the television documentary “Star Wars Returns” (EnviroVideo).


Global Network