(Un-) Peaceful Use of Space

Presentation for 13th General Assembly of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities: "Peace, Poverty, Racism: the Role of the Cities"

September 3 2000

By Regina Hagen, Darmstadt/Germany

I come from Darmstadt, a middle-sized town in Germany. It is a very emotional experience for me to visit Oswiecm - a town, whose German name, Auschwitz, will forever be engraved in the memory of humankind as a warning. A warning against racism. A warning against intolerance. A warning against war. A warning which is still very much needed, as racist attacks through the last ten years have proven that Germany has not yet overcome hatred and racism to this very day.

I have not come, however, to speak about racism. My topic is the peaceful, or rather the un-peaceful use of space. And there again I found a close link to where I come from, to Germany, to Darmstadt.

The Origins of Space Technology

On October 3, 1942, the first successful launch of a rocket was performed. The test was conducted at Peenemünde in northern Germany, where Freiherr Wernher von Braun, Captain Werner R. Dornberger, and Walter Riedl, chief designer of the team, cheered about the flawless flight of an A4 ballistic missile, better known by the name V2. Dornberger commented this achievement as the start of „a new era in transportation: that of space travel" and added that „our most urgent task can only be the rapid perfecting of the rocket as a weapon."1

This event marked the first major development step of a technology which has ever since been characterized by its military-civilian dual-use capability. Rocket enthusiasm in Germany and elsewhere in the world was originally fed by the dream to travel to the Moon. Its first use, however, was to bring death.

The "V" in "V2" stands for Vergeltung – that is vengence in English. On September 7 and 8, 1944, the first V2 missiles were fired at London and Paris from mobile launch pads on the western front. In the following months, a total of 1.403 V2s showered down on London, the south of England, Antwerp, and Liège. Another model, the V1, a cruise missile, added to the destruction. A total of almost 13,000 people died as a consequence.

I found several facts which make the V2 particularly meaningful for me, a German born more than ten years after the war was brought to an end. For one, after the British Air Force had bombed Peenemünde and destroyed much of the facilities, V2 construction was moved to a place in the middle of Germany. Nordhausen, or the Mittelwerk Dora, gained a sad reputation for the use of concentration camp labor in an underground factory. The prisoners who had to produce the V2 were brought from Buchenwald and other KZs and lived and worked under conditions that made a survivor describe it as "the antechambers of hell."2 Half of the estimated sixty thousand prisoners who entered Dora did not leave it alive.3

Another link connects Darmstadt with V2 development. In 1940, 238 scientists and engineers who worked at Peenemünde came from German universities – of these, 92 came from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Thus, scientists of our local university played a crucial role in making the V2 attacks possible. Hermann Steuding, e.g. made fundamental discoveries in guidance theory which were important to ensure target precision for the bombings. His former Darmstadt colleague Helmut Hoelzer not only improved the guidance technology but also built the first fully electronic analogous computer – a major breakthrough to calculate and simulate the missile trajectories.4

And a last fact points to Darmstadt. As I mentioned above, the Nazi military fired the first V2s against London and Paris on September 7 and 8, 1944. A few nights later, on September 11, 1944, the British launched an air campaign against Darmstadt. 700 explosive bombs and 300.000 incendiary bombs destroyed much of the town in a fire storm and more than twelve thousand people were killed in that single night.

The Military Race in Space

„The Faustian deal between the rocketeers and the butchers who were their benefactors would forever haunt von Braun and some of his colleagues. And elaborate ways to rationalize the arrangement would be found in years to come."5 The main argument for their cooperation with the German military put forward by the German rocket specialists was, that space science was too expensive for private corporations and government was the only sponsor that could be found.

This tradition continued after World War II, the rocketeers changed only their masters. A few days before the German surrender, von Braun and many of his top staff surrendered to the U.S. military. Eventually, van Braun and approx. 120 of his colleagues were transferred to the US in the course of operations Overcast and Paperclip (and so were about 1,500 other scientists, engineers, research specialists, and managers who would then work for the U.S. warfighting machinery.)

Along with the people, the US Army shipped 100 operable rockets, numerous rocket components, and tons of scientific documents from Germany to the US. Thus, the V2 became the foundation for the American space program. Over several years, the V2 developed both into the tactical nuclear missile Redstone (which was deployed in Germany in 1958) and into the Saturn V that brought the first men to the moon. The Soviets also brought many scientists, rockets, parts, and documents to Russia during operation Ossavakim and likewise used them to develop their own space capabilities.

This started a military race in space which continues to this very day. Nuclear-armed short, middle, and long range (intercontinental) ballistic missiles deployed on the ground, in planes, on ships, and on submarines have since dominated the military strategies of the United States, Russia, China, but also France and Britain. Recently, India and Pakistan joined the elite nuclear weapons club.

Military use of space, however, has not been limited to providing for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction. Today, space technology and satellites are used for a wide range of military purposes. This is highlighted by a text released by the Directorate of Public Affairs, Headquarters, U.S. Space Command, on March 24, 1999, and entitled U.S. Space Command Supports Kosovo Operation: "PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – U.S. Space Command is providing substantial space support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operation in Kosovo. A U.S. Space Command Joint Space Support Team is in theater to provide guidance to U.S. and allied warfighters in Europe and to coordinate the optimal use of U.S. space-based assets.

Space operations increase the combat effectiveness of U.S. and allied air, land, and sea forces through the control of satellites that provide ballistic missile warning, communications, weather, navigation, and imagery capabilities. Space assets also provide the means that help other services perform their missions."6

  • Infrared satellites (which are designed to ‘see’ thermal radiation) are used to recognize the launch of (ballistic) missiles – but also to detect the heat that is dissipated by the engines of hostile tanks or temperature differences caused by submerging submarines.
  • Communication satellites are needed to ensure the exchange of information; for command and control between other satellites, locally deployed troops, headquarters, military and political decision makers; and to provide media with the news which we then read in next days’ newspapers. Relay satellites downlink data rapidly to ground and other space stations, they function as ‘switchboard in the sky’.
  • Weather satellites provide weather data which plays a crucial role in the planning of military missions. High-tech weapons are highly dependent on weather conditions due to the laser systems, sensors, etc. employed.7 Also, it would e.g. be difficult to conduct a ground campaign when the soil is wet from heavy rains.
  • Navigation satellites are part of the Global Positioning System owned and operated by the US Department of Defense (DoD). Precise navigation data allows the troops, ships, planes, etc. to determine their exact location on the ground, on the sea, or in the air. Furthermore, it is also used to guide the so-called ‘intelligent precision bombs’, e.g. cruise missiles, to targets, even in bad weather.
  • Geodetic satellites provide the data basis for self-guided cruise missiles and improve the targeting precision.8
  • For reconnaissance, image and radar satellites are used. Image satellites use cameras to distinguish objects on the ground which are as small as ¼ of a meter. Radar satellites penetrate clouds, vegetation, and camouflage.
  • Spy satellites intercept data, fax, and voice traffic all over the world – during the Kosovo war e.g. conversations among top Serbian officials.9

All of these systems have a dual-use capability. They can be used for the military purposes listed above. At the same time, they can be used for a multitude of civilian uses: weather forecast for disaster warning, navigation for freight ships and trucks, communication by telephone and computer, imagery and radar information for environmental studies...

Not enough, some of these technologies play an important role even in arms control. Many verification programs (e.g. to reduce the number of nuclear-armed missiles, to verify the Chemical Weapon Convention, to verify compliance with international treaties, etc.) rely on data gained from space.

Ballistic Missile Defense

Although military space systems are used by many countries on a daily basis, they are hardly ever discussed in public. In the center of public debate, however, are US plans to deploy a National Missile Defense system.

Plans to defend against ballistic missiles (Ballistic Missile Defense, BMD) are almost as old as the history of ballistic missile warfare. The German V2 attacks on allies’ cities came as quite a shock. The US began conducting research on ballistic missile defense shortly after World War II even though they did not face a missile threat of their own territory at that time. Since then, the US has spent over US$ 120 billion on missile defense but has not yet been able to develop a reliable system.10 Once before had the US developed, constructed, and deployed a missile defense system: Safeguard was designed to protect missile silos in North Dakota. It began operation on October 1, 1975, and was shut down again on January 27, 1976 – it was too obvious, that the concept wouldn’t work. The system had cost US$ 23,1 billion in today’s dollar – which makes US$ 194 million for each day it was in operation.11

Safeguard was the US systems originally permitted under the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty signed by the United States and the Sovjet Union. It entered into force in 1972 and was amended in 1974. In the Treaty, both sides agreed to not try to defend the whole national territory against missile attacks. A maximum of 100 defense missiles are allowed to protect on site. The US built Safeguard, Moscow chose to deploy a missile defense system around Moscow which remains in place today.

In the logic of the nuclear age, this deal makes sense. If one side had the ability to defend against missiles, the other would feel encouraged to increase the number of their offensive forces. By limiting the defense capabiltiy, both countries knew that their defense could be overwhelmed by a massive attack. Consequently, each side kept the capability to conduct a retaliatory strike in case it was attacked first. That means, that none of the two would dare to attack the other – the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was put into place to prevent a nuclear war.

This philosophy is still prevalent today. Therefore, current plans of the US to build a nationwide system to defend against ballistic missiles (National Missile Defense, NMD) provoke just as much outrage as did Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars plans in the 1980s.

Not only would NMD mean a violation of the ABM Treaty, it would likely also lead to a new arms race and destabilization. China, for example, has a mere 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in its arsenals. NMD would be designed to defend against two dozens incoming ICBMS in it’s third stage. If the US decided to deploy, China would most certainly increase the number of its offensive weapons. India, in turn, would feel threatened by this offensive potential and also speed up development of its own missile development. As a consequence, Pakistan would feel forced to do the same. This domino-effect is just one example of the type of reactions to be expected if NMD became reality.

In addition to the destabilization, critics point out that the intended NMD system could easily be overcome. The easiest way to attack US territory in spite of a ballistic missile defense would be either to launch a short-range missile from a ship close to the coastline or to transport a nuclear weapon by truck and to explode it in a major city. But even if ICBMs were chosen to attack US territory, simple decoy balloons (similar to children’s toy balloons) could be released together with the real warhead. The image sensors of the defending interceptor (the so-called kill vehicle) could hardly discriminate between the warhead and the balloons. If either the ballons are slightly heated or the warhead is cooled down, even the kill vehicle’s infrared sensors could not find out the difference between the warhead and the balloons. Therefore, each object released in the atmosphere would have to be dealt with as if it were an actual warhead – and the NMD system would soon be overwhelmed.12

The NMD Concept of Operation (Illustration by FAS)
The NMD Concept of Operation (Illustration by FAS)13

As can be seen from the illustration above, NMD would depend heavily on space-based satellite systems. On the ground, existing early-warning radars would have to be upgraded and new X-band radars would have to be built. To make NMD work for the whole of the US territory, early warning – and therefore radar bases – would be needed all over the world. Currently, planned radar sites are located in Alaska, on the US East and West coast, on Greenland, in Great Britan, and eventually in South Korea.

Protest runs high in Europe. On top of the concerns about a new arms race and the violation of the ABM Treaty, Greenland and Britain are worried that they might be the target of an attack if NMD systems were deployed in their countries.

NMD System and Kill Vehicle (Illustration by FAS)
NMD System and Kill Vehicle (Illustration by FAS)

A preliminary and decisive decision on NMD deployment is due within the next few weeks. The US have so far conducted three tests, two of which failed. A total of 19 tests are planned until 2005 when NMD is scheduled for deployment. Military experts, however, have made it clear that the schedule can not be kept for technical reasons.

Comment: Rather than try to defend against any threat, the US should push along with disarmament efforts. Further reductions of nuclear arsenals both in the US and in Russia, eventually also in all the other nuclear-weapon countries, would certainly lower the danger of an accidential ICBM launch. Perceived threats in other countries – the US usually list North Korea and Iran as potential attackers – would much easier be remedied by negotiating a moratorium on the further development, testing, and deployment of ballistic missiles.14

Waging War in Space or: The Ultimate High Ground

NMD is bad enough. Unluckily, it is just part of a larger picture.

"A recent Senate report argued that ... the Defense Department needs to start focusing on space as ‘the strategic high ground form which to project power’. That means developing lasers or ‘kinetic energy rods’ or other weapons that could be used to attack enemy spacecraft or missiles or even ground targets like bridges and building."15

This is nothing new. Two years ago I listened to a presentation from a public relations officer with the U.S. Air Force. She works for the 21st Space Wing at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado/USA, which "is a part of the United States Space Command under Air Force Space Command".16

The script for the presentation says: "The 21st Space Wing has two very important space operation missions – missile warning and space control. ... The space surveillance aspect of the space control mission allows the U.S. to maintain and dominate the 'high ground'. ... Space control is evolving into space superiority to ensure the safe and free use of space by our forces and allies. ... The control of air and space is critical because it allows all U.S. forces freedom from attack and freedom to attack. ... We cannot allow space to be controlled by our adversaries. ... Team 21, first place in space. Dominating the high ground!"17

This is in full conformity with the overall space policy of the U.S. military. "Space has often been referred to as 'the high ground', in the sense of giving its occupier a dominating view (and prospective control) of a potential battlefield."18 "Space forces play an increasingly important role in prosecuting modern warfare. They provide global and battlefield surveillance, ballistic missile warning, precise navigation, secure communications, weather, and intelligence information. Space assets facilitate effective command and control and enhance the joint utilization of our land, sea, and air forces."19

In its glossy publication "Vision for 2020", the US Space Command sets the stage for military engagement in space. The motto: "US Space Command – dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict."20

The Space Command draws historical parallels: "Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments – both military and economic. During the rise of sea commerce, nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests. During the westward expansion of the continental United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements, and railroads. As air power developed, its primary purpose was to support and enhance land and sea operations. However, over time, air power evolved into a separate and equal medium of warfare. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. Over the past several decades, space power has primarily supported land, sea, and air operations – strategically and operationally. During the early portion of the 21st century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare. Likewise, space forces will emerge to protect military and commercial national interests and investment in the space medium due to their increasing importance."21

No doubt about it: in addition to supporting Earth-based armed forces, protecting commercial space activities – i.e. telecommunication and remote sensing satellites, industrial enterprises who want to 'mine the sky', visions for space-based colonies, etc. – serve as a justification to enforce U.S. dominance in space. "The political, economic, technological, and military trends hold significant implications for USSPACECOM. An increased dependence upon space capabilities may lead to increased vulnerabilities. As space systems become lucrative military targets, there will be a critical need to control the space medium to ensure US dominance on the future battlefields. ... Control of Space is the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the space medium, and an ability to deny others the use of space, if required. ... Global Engagement is the application of precision force from, to, and through space."22

Star Wars
Star Wars (Illustration by Paul Alexander)

In 1997, the US Space Command finalized its Long Range Plan (LRP). The plan "captures in one place a comprehensive roadmap for achieving our vision for 2020. ... It is our roadmap to prepare ourselves to not only do today's job in military space better, but to plan for 2020's challenges".23 The LRP repeats the importance of protecting the national assets, to counter "... the nation's dependence on space capabilities in the 21st Century which rivals its dependence on electricity and oil in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Electricity and oil were critical parts of the industrial revolution; space capabilities (e.g. communications, positioning and timing, imaging, earth resource monitoring, and weather) are emerging as vital to the infomation revolution. ... US interests and investments in space must be fully protected to ensure our nation's freedom of action in space."24

And industry responds to military demands. On its large poster "Revolutionizing Airpower for the 21st Century"25 , Boeing presents the Airborne Laser (ABL), a joint project by the U.S. Air Force, Boeing, TRW and Lockheed Martin. In the section "The Threat is Real and Growing", the poster lists seemingly dangerous proliferators like Romania, Bulgaria, and the Slovak Republic. The publication is not a leftover from the Cold War – it was published in 1997...

Space-Based Laser
Space Based Laser

Development of a Space Based Laser (SBL) seems like a logical step ahead. At the 1998 National Space Symposium in Colorado Spring, TRW proudly announced that together with Boeing it won a study contract "to define concepts for a Space-Based Laser Readiness Demonstrator (SBLRD). Funded by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organisation, the contract follows more than 15 years of TRW work developing technologies for BMDO-sponsored space-based laser initiatives. ... SBLRD is intended to demonstrate the technical feasibility of using a space-based laser system to intercept and destroy theater ballistic missiles in their boost phase."26 (The boost phase is of particular interest for any ballistic missile defense as engaging targets over enemy territory would release all debris – be it conventional, biological, chemical, or nuclear – close to the launch area, i.e. over enemy territory.) It should not be ignored, however, that the SBL could also be used offensively, e.g. to destroy bridges, military equipment, or other militarily sensitive facilities.

In all these plans, however, military is confronted by a major problem. Space-based weapons like the Space Based Laser need huge amounts of energy. Therefore, in its 13 volume publication New World Vistas, the US Air Force states: "Power limitations ... currently make large space-based radars and space-based weapons relatively unfeasible. ... A natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space."27

Possible Action on a Local Level

In the text above, it was mostly the US who have been used as an example. This has two reasons: They are most advanced with respect to technology – and therefore with plans for further militarization and weaponization of space. On the positive side, it is usually easiest to get information from US as their information policy is more open than that of other countries. Currently, the US are undoubtedly on the technological forefront and pushing new developments.

However, the situation must also be carefully observed in other countries. France and Germany, e.g., signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2000 to cooperate in the deployment of a military satellite system.28 According to the plans, France will contribute its optical reconnaissance satellite Horus while Germany contracted a private company to develop the radar satellite SAR-Lupe.29

Though space is mostly considered a field for commerce, science, and research in Europe, even here it implies often production for war, not to cover social needs. Military space technology devours huge amounts of money. Money that can be spent only once – either for war from space or for improvements in a country’s infrastructure, either for deployment of military satellites or for better education, either for National Missile Defense or for the protection of the environment, either for military reconnaissance or for social welfare. This is true everywhere – in the US, in Europe, in Russia, in Asia, Africa and Latin America. When it comes to a communal level, therefore, everyone attending this conference should have a interest in learning more about the use of space.

In many towns, public events are organized on a regular basis to educate people about space. Often it is national space agencies who sponsor these events. From all said above it should be clear that we should not leave the arena for public relations to praise space flight and space technology, to talk about the fascination. It is our duty to learn about the negative aspects of space use, and to pass this information on to others, anad to let our governments know that we oppose the militarization and weaponization of space..

APPENDIX - Ethical Criteria and Demands on Space Use

In March 1999, the Interdisciplinary Working Group on Science, Technology and Security (IANUS), the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, and several other groups convened an international conference on Space Use and Ethics at Darmstadt University of Technology. At that conference, a catalogue of Criteria for the Assessment of Future Space Projects was presented as was a list of Demands on Future Space Research and Policy. This appendix contains a short description of the criteria and of the demands.

Criteria for the Assessment of Future Space Projects

The following eight criteria for the assessment of future space projects were developed by Jürgen Scheffran. He is a physicist, a Senior Research Assistant with IANUS at the Darmstadt University of Technology, and a long-time expert on space issues. I want to explicitly point out that the following interpretation of his criteria is mine as no paper has as yet been published by him on this issue.

  1. Exclude the possibility of severe catastrophe

    A space project should be designed so that it excludes the possibility of a severe catastrophe. Power generation in a space probe by means of plutonium-238, for example, poses the danger of severe contamination in the case of a launch or flyby accident. There is the potential for poisoning the environment and increasing cancer probabilities of the residents of the accident area in the case of a launch accident. In the case of the flyby there is the potential of a catastrophe which could affect thousands or even millions of people.

  2. Avoid military use, violent conflict, and proliferation

    Space projects should be civilian by design and their use for military purposes should be avoided to the largest extent possible. It should also be considered whether the project could cause a conflict which might lead to the use of violence. Caution should be taken to avoid proliferation of military technology.

  3. Minimize adverse effects on health and environment

    The manufacturing of launch vehicles, space probes, satellites, or space stations requires a lot of valuable resources. Launch pads represent a major intervention into nature. During the launch, huge amounts of propellants are burned and exhaust fumes emitted. The consequences of plutonium use were already mentioned above. The potential transfer of infectious material between Earth and celestial bodies should also be a matter of great concern.

  4. Assure scientific-technical quality, functionality, reliability

    A space project should only be conducted when it is assured that it can fulfill the desired purpose. It should use reliable technology, the functionality should be appropriate for the purpose, and the mission should deliver results which fulfill scientific expectations.

  5. Solve problems and satisfy needs in a sustainable and timely manner

    A space project should help to solve problems on Earth rather than create new ones (an example is weather forecast to predict the path a hurricane will take.) The needs and requirements of current generations should be met and the needs of future generations should not be undermined. We should concentrate on preserving Earth rather than on conquering space. The time frame of the project should be adequate for the problem to be solved.

  6. Seek alternatives with best cost-benefit effectiveness

    In the course of the planning process of a space mission, alternatives should be examined. A space mission should only be conducted if a terrestrial solution is not feasible or is considerably more expensive.

  7. Guarantee social compatibility and strengthen cooperation

    It should be ensured that funding for space projects does not increase levels of social exclusion in our societies. Neither should the massive resources used in these projects further destabilize international relations. Space projects should generally be conducted by open and cooperative exchange of the international scientific community. The results and findings should be shared with developing countries.

  8. Justify projects in a public debate involving those concerned

    Space projects should not be decided on by elite circles. The public has a right to be involved in the discussion and decision-making process. The information about the project as well as critical meeting schedules and agendas should be widely circulated.

Demands on Future Space Research and Policy

The criteria listed above were taken into account when the Darmstädter Friedensforum, a grassroots peace group from Darmstadt, developed the following demands which are basically directed to our government, to any government. We insist that these be taken seriously by all involved in the planning and implementation of space-based projects.

  • Transparency and open dialogue about space use

    In their coalition agreement, the new German government promised open dialogue with citizens on all major technological developments. And yet they did not fulfill these promises at the Darmstadt conference on Space Use and Ethics. The German Ministry of Research, for example, were unable to send a representative to the Darmstadt conference. The management of the European Space Agency and the German space agency (DLR) decided less than a week before the conference that none of their representatives could attend. This attitude is unacceptable.

  • Exclude use of nuclear power sources for space missions

    So far, at least 71 nuclear-powered space missions have been launched. Ten of them encountered serious problems or accidents. More plutonium-238 has been dispersed into the atmosphere by an accident with a U.S. SNAP-9A plutonium generator in 1964 than by all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, all nuclear reprocessing plants, and the Chernobyl accident in combination, according to NASA information.

    Current NASA plans include eight nuclear-powered space missions for which new plutonium generators are being designed and US production of plutonium-238 is expected to begin again. This represents not only considerable risks to life on earth but also undermines any attempts to prevent the proliferation of plutonium on a world-wide scale.

    Development of solar power supplies should be improved. If solar alternatives are not feasible, space missions should be postponed until technology has advanced.

  • Prohibition on military projects

    Military space projects must generally be prohibited. Weapons must generally not be deployed in space. Contractual provisions should also exclude the dual-use of civilian space technology and devices. Space agencies must not participate in military space projects.

  • Adherence to and enhancement of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

    The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty which prohibits a national missile defense for the U.S. and for Russia must be adhered to. Recent moves in the US to undermine the treaty present a clear threat to international stability. We demand that the treaty be multilateralized and its scope broadened to include a European dimension.

  • Strengthen international law in space

    The Outer Space Treaty reserves the use of space for peaceful purposes. We must, however, not neglect the fact that civilian space technology has a high potential for military use. Because the lines are blurred, there should be closer cooperation between the Office of Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) in Vienna and the Conference on Disarmament (CoD) in Geneva.

    We urge UN delegates to make clear statements against any military use of space and to strengthen the position of the UN with regard to dual use.

  • Interdisciplinary dialogue about space use and responsibility

    Space use should be discussed by interdisciplinary groups. The attitude of "it is not my business" ("I just provide an experiment, I have nothing to do with the power supply," or "All I do is observe desertification. I have nothing to do with military operations") is not acceptable. We are all players on the same field – each scientist is responsible for his or her work and its overall context.

  • Disclosure of the usefulness or value of space projects

    We should always be informed about the usefulness of space projects. Basic research is of course legitimate, but it requires a consensus within the society that this „luxury" is wanted. There should be a real, even if future, use for society as a whole. Private profit of companies, organizations, or individuals should not be the sole justification for space projects.

    In this context it should also be made clear that the number of jobs created in space industry or in technological competitiveness is not a justification per se. The space budget of the German Ministry of Education and Research, for example, amounts to approx. DM 1.3 billion. According to the industrial aerospace association BDLI (Bundesverband der deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtindustrie), 6.150 people are currently working on space projects in Germany. This means that each employee is subsidized with DM 200.000 per year. To do so might well be justifiable, but the usefulness and value of this subsidy should be explained to the tax payer.

  • Right for complete and understandable information
  • We have a right to obtain complete information about planned projects. The information must be presented such that it can be understood by educated citizens.

    An example of incomplete information is the ESA’s public relations about the Cassini/Huygens mission. The ESA simply ignores the use of plutonium generators and thus conceals important information about the project from the public.

    Another example is NASA’s latest campaign about the Deep Space 1 mission. All public announcements stress the use of an innovative ion thruster which continuously accelerates the probe during the flight to its destination. Therefore ion thrusters are an ideal propulsion for deep space missions. NASA, however, withholds the information that ion thrusters require a lot of energy. The power can be provided by solar panels up to a certain distance from the sun only. For deep space missions, nuclear energy supplies would have to be used. To make an educated judgement about the desirability of this kind of propulsion for deep space missions, all facts must be published by NASA.

  • Space agencies must adhere to policy set by elected bodies

    The decision about space projects is too important to leave it to industry or space agencies. The government and other elected bodies in consultation with citizens groups should set the policy guidelines for space research and use which must then be adhered to by the space agencies.

  • Accountability of space agency executives according to the ethical criteria

    Executives of space agencies should be accountable for their decisions and for any negative effects of their space missions.

    Accountability and an open information policy are a must for all high-tech organizations which are funded from tax-payers money. To put it bluntly: no dialogue – no money!

  • Fair distribution of financial resources

    Proper funding should exist not only for established and mainstream institutes but also for critical scientists. We need them. Many problems are caused by experts. We have the right to cooperate with experts who solve or, even better, avoid the problems and who are concerned with peace, conflict resolution, and sustainability.

  • Unbiased examination of feasible alternatives

    Alternatives to the planned space missions should be examined. Investigations should be undertaken to find out whether simpler, cheaper, safer, better solutions are feasible. These investigations should be conducted by independent experts from various disciplines.


  1. Frank H. Winter, Rockets into Space, Frontiers of Space Series, Harvard University Pressl, Cambridge, Mass.1990, p. 50.
  2. Burrows, The New Ocean. The Story of the First Space Age, Random House, Modern Library Paperback Edition, New York, p. 103.
  3. ibid, p. 104.
  4. Michael J. Neufeld, Die Rakete und das Reich. Wernher von Braun, Peenemünde und der Beginn des Raketenzeitalters, Henschel Verlag, 1999, p  125f. English edition The Rocket and the Reich published in New York, 1995.
  5. William E. Burrows, op.cit., p. 79.
  6. See http://www.spacecom.af.mil/usspace.
  7. Jürgen Scheffran, Wer den Weltraum beherrscht, beherrscht die Erde, in: Wissenschaft und Frieden 2/1994.
  8. ibid.
  9. Richard J. Newman, The New Space Race. The Pentagon envisions a war in the heavens, but can it defend the utlimate hight ground? in: U.S. News & World Report, November 8, 1999, p. 30f.
  10. Stephen W. Young, Pushing the Limits. The Decision on National Missile Defense, Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers and Council for a Livable World Education Fund, April 2000, p 27. The booklet is online at http://www.clw.org.
  11. ibid., p. 46.
  12. For details, see Andrew M. Sessler et.al., Countermeasures. A Technical Evaluation of the Operational Effectiveness of the Planned US National Missile Defense System, Union of Concerned Scientists and MIT Security Studies Program, April 2000
  13. FAS = Federation of American Scientists; for more information see http://www.fas.org.
  14. Richard J. Newman, op.cit.
  15. Script for overhead presentation given by a public relations officer of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado/USA, on April 9, 1998.
  16. ibid.
  17. Department of Defense, Space Program. An Executive Overview for FY 1998 – 2003, March 1997; http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/sp97/index.html
  18. National Military Strategy of the United States of America, 1995; as quoted in Space Program, op.cit.
  19. United States Space Command, Vision for 2020. Peterson Air Force Base, 2nd Printing, August 1997
  20. ibid.
  21. ibid.
  22. US Space Command, Long Range Plan. Implementing USSPACECOM Vision for 2020, printed March 1998; posted on the Internet at
  23. ibid.
  24. Boeing/Team ABL, "Revolutionizing Airpower for the 21st Century", Seattle, WA/USA, printed April 1997
  25. TRW, "TRW-led Team SBL Awarded $10 Million Space Laser Contract", company presss release dated March 17, 1998; http://www.businesswire.com/trw/bw.031798.htm
  26. For more details, see Karl Grossman, The Wrong Stuff. The Space Programs Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, Common Courage Press, 1997. See also the website of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, http://www.space4peace.org.
  27. Hans-Hagen Bremer, Berlin und Paris demonstrieren Einigkeit, in: Frankfurter Rundschau, June 10, 2000.
  28. OHB System-Team, SAR-Lupe. Brochure distributed at the international air and space fair ILA 2000 which took place in Berlin/Germany in May 2000.

Regina Hagen works as a freelance technical translator. She is a member of the grassroots peace group "Darmstädter Friedensforum", on the Board of Directors of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, and active in Abolition 2000, an international network to abolish nuclear weapons. She can be contacted as follows: Regina Hagen, Teichhausstrasse 46, D-64287 Darmstadt, Germany; phone [49] (6151) 47 114, fax 47 105, e-mail regina.hagen@jugendstil.da.shuttle.de. For the Global Network website see www.space4peace.org.

Home Page