U.S. Plans to Wage War in Space

Presentation in Toronto, Canada
October 14, 2000

By Karl Grossman

The U.S. military is seeking to turn space into new arena of war. It wants to "control space," to "dominate" space and from it the Earth below-and "control" and "dominate" are words used repeatedly in U.S. military documents. The U.S. military, further, would like to base weapons in space.

There is only a narrow window to stop these plans from going forward and preventing what inevitably would follow: other nations will meet the U.S. in kind and there will be an arms race and ultimately war in space.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared at the opening last year of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland that space must be maintained as a "weapons-free environment."

Canada's delegation to the UN Conference on Disarmament has been a world leader in pressing the issue: in seeking to preserve the intent of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, the basic international law-signed by 91 countries including the United States-setting aside space for peaceful purposes.

As Marc Vidricaire of the Canadian delegation to the UN noted last October in a UN presentation: "For some time now the Conference on Disarmament has had before it the idea of negotiating the ban of the weaponization of outer space. In January 1997, Canada first formally proposed the negotiation in the CD of a legally-binding instrument for that purpose…In February 1999, we formally renewed our proposal and circulated a further expansion of the rationale for the negotiation of a ban of the weaponization of outer space."

"It has been suggested that our proposal is not relevant because the assessment on which it rests is either premature or alarmist. In our view, it is neither," stated Mr. Vidricaire. "One needs only to look at what is happening right now to realize that it is not premature." He cited various industry and government documents including the "Long Range Plan" of the U.S. Space Command which, he noted, "includes a recommendation to 'shape [the] international community to accept space-based weapons to defend against threats in accordance with national policy."

"The level of funding is noteworthy and growing. Again this year, the USA allocated millions of dollars to several projects which could be used as weapons from outer space," said Mr. Vidricaire who, might I mention, I've had the honor of participating with on a panel at the UN on these matters.

"While many projects are in the exploratory phase, we have no doubt that it will be technologically possible in the medium term future to place in orbit a platform from which a state could attack a target on the ground or in the atmosphere," the Canadian diplomat went on. And although "we have used examples from the USA here…other states are beginning to explore these issues from a military policy, doctrine and technology perspective."

That is why, said Mr. Vidricaire-and I say here now-that we must move now, before it is too late, to ban weapons in space. Along with that, we must develop solid mechanisms assuring compliance-to keep space for peace.

"We have heard often before that there is no arms race in outer space," Mr. Vidricaire said. "We agree. We would like to keep it that way for the sake of our own national security and for international peace and security as a whole."

"There is no question that the technology can be developed to place weapons in outer space," said Mr. Vidricaire. "There is also no question that no state can expect to maintain a monopoly on such knowledge-or such capabilities-for all time. If one state actively pursues the weaponization of space, we can be sure others will follow."

U.S. military plans for space are explicitly in not the "Long Range Plan" cited by the Canadian diplomat as well as in the "Vision For 2020" report and other documents of the U.S. Space Command and statements of related U.S. space military operations. The U.S. Space Command, incidentally, "coordinates the use of Army, Naval and Air Force Space Forces" and was set up by the Pentagon to "help institutionalize the use of space," notes its web site www.spacecom.af.mil/usspace.

The multi-colored cover of "Vision For 2020" depicts a laser weapon shooting a beam down from space zapping a target below. The report then proclaims in wording laid out like in the start of the Star Wars movies: "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."

"Vision For 2020" compares the U.S. effort to control space and the Earth below to how centuries ago "nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests" by ruling the seas.

"Vision For 2020" also considers the global economy-of which the U.S. is, of course, the engine. "The globalization of the world economy will also continue, with a widening between 'haves' and 'have-nots,'" says the U.S. Space Command in "Vision For 2020." The view apparently is that by controlling space and the Earth below, the U.S. will be able to keep those "have-nots" in line.

The U.S. military not only acknowledges, it proudly points to U.S. corporate interests being involved in helping set U.S. space military doctrine.

The "Long Range Plan" of the U.S. Space Command starts out: "The Long Range Plan has been US Space Command's #1 priority for the past 11 months, investing nearly 20 man-years to make it a reality. The development and production process, by design, involved hundreds of people including about 75 corporations."

The "Long Range Plan" goes on to list those 75 corporations-beginning with Aerojet and going through Battelle and Lockheed Martin and Rand to TRW and Vista Technologies.

Our President Dwight Eisenhower warned the U.S. in a "farewell address" to the nation in 1959 of the rise of a "military-industrial complex" setting U.S. policy. And here it is in spades. Indeed, last week other U.S. opponents of the nation's military plans for space and I spoke out on Wall Street--on the platform on which George Washington was sworn in as the first U.S. president-about this. Surrounding us, it was stressed, were corporate interests which are smack in the middle of promoting and helping prepare plans for U.S. space warfare-about which the U.S. military boasts.

"Guardians of the High Frontier," a publication of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, a component of the U.S. Space Command, declares that: "Space is the ultimate `high ground.'" The Air Force Space Command says it is committed to "the control and exploitation of space.".

An Air Force Space Command motto: "Master of Space." There's a uniform patch emblazoned with that motto. It appears in two-foot high letters over the entrance of the Air Force's 50th Space Wing. It pretty well sums up the U.S. military attitude toward space.

As General Joseph Ashy, then commander-in-chief of the U.S. Space Command, told the trade magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology: "It's politically sensitive, but it's going to happen. Some people don't want to hear this, and it sure isn't in vogue, but-absolutely-we're going to fight in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space….That's why the U.S. has development programs in directed energy and hit-to-kill mechanisms."

General Ashy spoke of "space control," the U.S. military's term for control of space, and "space force application," its definition of control of Earth from space. Said General Ashy: "We'll expand into these two missions because they will become increasingly important. We will engage terrestrial targets someday-ships, airplanes, land targets-from space. We will engage targets in space, from space."

And this is all far more than reports and rhetoric. A multi-million dollar program is now underway to build a "Space-Based Laser Readiness Demonstrator." The military's poster for this laser shows it firing its ray in space while a U.S. flag somehow waves in space above it. This past Monday was the deadline for comments on the military's "Environmental Assessment" on full development of this space-based laser. The program cost: $30 billion.

Billions of dollars a year are already going annually into what is these days called Ballistic Missile Defense, renamed from Strategic Defense Initiative, the "Star Wars" program under U.S. Presidents Reagan and Bush. Missile defense? In context, what the U.S. military appears to want is in large part not defense but offense.

"With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we're going to keep it," Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force for Space Keith Hall, who is also director of the National Reconnaissance Office, told the National Space Club.

In Congress, there is now consideration of breaking up the U.S. Air Force and creating a U.S. Space Force. The U.S. must have "space supremacy," says U.S. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Strategic Subcommittee.

A 13-member Congressional panel-being called the Commission to Assess U.S. National Security Space Management and Organization-was recently formed to look at all aspects of how a new U.S. Space Force would operate.

Because of the U.S. military's plans for space, a vote was called this past November 1 in the United Nations General Assembly to reaffirm the Outer Space Treaty and, specifically, its provision that space shall be set aside for peaceful purposes.

Some 138 nations-including Canada-voted for the motion titled: "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space." The United States and Israel abstained.

Meanwhile, at the Conference for Disarmament in Geneva, the U.S. has been blocking actions on the efforts of Canada, China, among many other countries, to ban weapons in space.

Said Wang Xiaoyu, First Secretary of the Delegation of China, at a seminar at the UN in Geneva last year on "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space"-which I keynoted- organized by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom: "Outer space is the common heritage of human beings. It should be used entirely for peaceful purposes and for the economic, scientific, and cultural development of all countries as well as the well-being of mankind. It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race."

That, once, was also the view of the U.S.

A former U.S. State Department officer, Craig Eisendrath, who helped create the Outer Space Treaty, notes that keeping space weapons-free was why the U.S. was an initiator of the treaty. Dr. Eisendrath was in the audience at a workshop I led on weapons-in-space issues at the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in The Netherlands last year and told those present that it was in the wake of the Soviet launching of its Sputnik satellite in 1957 that the U.S. sought to "de-weaponize" space-before it got weaponized. The State Department, Eisendrath explained, used the Antarctica Treaty as a model for the Outer Space Treaty. However, the treaty ended up "just" banning "nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" in space.

The world community has only a brief span of time to make sure the treaty's original intent is upheld-to join with Canada and other nations to prohibit the placement of any weapons in space.

"The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century"-yes, "American World Dominance in the 2lst Century"-by George and Meredith Friedman is an exposition on the proposition that the U.S. can dominate the Earth for many years to come through the military control of space. "The manner in which wars are waged is undergoing a dramatic transformation, which will greatly enhance American power," states their book.

As to other countries responding to the U.S., George Friedman, in an interview in the U.S. magazine "Parade," said other nations are just "passing blips" -he specifically names Russia, Japan and China-in competing with the U.S. militarily in space.

"The Future Of War" concludes: "Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space….Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space….Just as Europe shaped the world for half a millenium, so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time. For better or worse, America has seized hold of the future of war…"

Last year in Geneva, after my presentation at the seminar on "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space," a high U.S. official spoke to me striking similar notes. In the wake of the Vietnam War, he explained, "we can't field large numbers of ground troops." This was "done for Desert Storm," but that took "nine months of a drum roll." However, the "we can project power from space," said the official, and that that is why the U.S. military is moving in this way.

There are profound issues involved in U.S. plans to "control" space and from it the Earth below, I said, remarking that "my uncles didn't come to Europe" during World War II to fight for that kind of U.S. I added that in the 1980s I wrote a book on U.S. intervention in Nicaragua ("Nicaragua: America's New Vietnam?") and I am not naïve about U.S. history but "the U.S. seeking to control space and from it the Earth below is way beyond the Monroe Doctrine." Moreover, if the U.S. moved ahead with this, would not other nations respond and an arms race in space ensue?

The official replied that the U.S. military has done analyses and concluded that China is "30 years behind" in competing with U.S. militarily in space. And Russia "doesn't have the money." I mentioned traveling to China, seeing the technological power of that nation and I pointed to its space prowess-U.S. companies are using China for launches. If the U.S. moves to "control" space and the Earth below, to deploy weapons in space, the Chinese would be up there-in something like three, not 30 years, I suggested. And Russia might not have the rubles now, but it's a nation rich in natural resources and with enormous space abilities. A huge, potentially catastrophic miscalculation is being made, I said, heading the world to war in the heavens.

U.S. military plans for space also will likely involve the use of nuclear power as an energy source for space-based weapons.

The weapons the U.S. military is interested in deploying in space-notably lasers-will need large amounts of power and nuclear energy is seen as a power source.

As "New World Vistas: Air And Space Power For The 2lst Century," a U.S. Air Force board report, states: "In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict…These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills." But "power limitations impose restrictions" on such-based weapons systems making them "relatively unfeasible….A natural technology to enable high power," it goes on, "is nuclear power in space."

"Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space," asserts "New World Vistas."

I first began investigating space issues in 1985 after learning that the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA intended to launch two space shuttles in 1986-one of the shuttles the Challenger-with plutonium-fueled space probes aboard. After the shuttles achieved orbit, the probes would be fired from them.

After reading about the plan in a Department of Energy publication, "Energy Insider," I filed a request under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act with NASA, DOE and the national laboratories said by "Energy Insider" to be involved in the missions. "Energy Insider" said that the government had evaluated the consequences of an accident with the probes-on launch, in the atmosphere, if a probe fell back to Earth-and I asked for this information.

It took nearly a year to get it. It was quite an uphill fight although the Freedom of Information Act requires that the government handle requests promptly. What the government finally advised was that, yes, there could be quite a disaster if the plutonium-considered the most dangerous radioactive substance-was dispersed in an accident but the likelihood of a catastrophic shuttle accident was but 1-in-100,000

That was late 1985. On January 28, 1986, on my way to teach an Investigative Reporting at the State University of New York, I heard over the car radio that the Challenger had blown up. I stopped at an appliance store and saw that horrible image on 100 TV sets-and thought, what if it was May of '86, the Challenger's next mission, when it was to loft the Ulysses plutonium-fueled space probe, with 24.2 pounds of plutonium? There wouldn't have been seven brave astronauts dying if the explosion occurred then and the plutonium dispersed-as pieces of the Challenger dispersed-far and wide. Many, many more people could have died.

I began writing articles, then TV documentaries and a book, "The Wrong Stuff," on the use of nuclear materials on space devices. NASA, incidentally, soon changed the odds of a catastrophic shuttle accident from 1-in-100,000 to 1-in-76. We only know real probabilities through empirical evidence.

And I kept asking: why? Why use nuclear materials on space devices? For example, Ulysses was to be lofted by Challenger and sent to orbit the sun. The plutonium on it and other space probes is used not for propulsion but just to generate a small amount of electricity-256 watts on Ulysses-to power onboard instruments. Why not use solar photovoltaic energy?

Why put the entire space program at risk by using nuclear material? Part of the answer to that question was simple: as the informant "Deep Throat" told "Washington Post" reporter Bob Woodward as he investigated the Watergate scandal-"follow the money." Who makes money on the use of nuclear devices in space? General Electric, which manufactured the plutonium systems, and, in recent years, Lockheed Martin, which took over that division of GE. Both GE and Lockheed Martin, it turned out, long lobbied the U.S. government to use their plutonium systems in space. Further, there are the U.S. national laboratories involved in developing space nuclear systems, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, seeking to retain and expand their funding.

Then I got to the military connection: the desire of the U.S. military to deploy nuclear-powered weapons in space. NASA was set up in 1958 ostensibly as a civilian agency but, particularly after the end of the Apollo man-on-the-moon missions and seeing-heavens forbid-its budget drop, it became increasingly involved with the U.S. military. Indeed, the shuttle program itself was created as a half-civilian, half-military program. The most recent NASA shuttle mission, for example, a flight to map the Earth, was primarily a mission for the Pentagon as some news reports mentioned way down. NASA likes to coordinate its activities with the U.S. military.

And the U.S. military wants nuclear-powered weapons in space and that's been a key reason why NASA has been insisting on using nuclear power in space-even when solar power would suffice.

Most recently, NASA launched in 1997 its Cassini space probe with more plutonium than ever used on a space probe-72.3 pounds. Afraid to use a shuttle for this launch, NASA sent Cassini up on a Titan-4 (Lockheed Martin) military rocket. It got up, although three Titan-4's have blown up since. Indeed, the Titan-4 launch record is now 1-in-10. One catastrophic accident for every 10 launches. If you knew your Honda or Ford would blow up when you got in and started it up one in 10 times, you would think of another way to travel.

Then, last year, NASA sent the Cassini space probe and its pounds of plutonium fuel hurtling past the Earth, 700 miles high, on August 17-to give it a "gravity assist," additional velocity to reach its final destination of Saturn. The good news: Cassini got past.

That bad news: On September 23 the Mars Climate Orbiter seeking to pass over Mars ended up coming too close to the Martian atmosphere and crashed into Mars. That could have been Cassini and the Earth five weeks before. It turns out that the two teams of Mars Orbiter scientists were working with different scales of measurement: one feet, one meters, and that's how the screw-up occurred. Yes, accidents will happen when human beings are involved.

More bad news: NASA, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office report, "Space Exploration: Power Sources for Deep Space Probes," is "studying eight future space missions between 2000 and 2015 that will likely use nuclear-fueled electric generators."

The next scheduled NASA space nuclear mission is that of the Europa Orbiter in 2003-to go to Europa, a moon of Jupiter.

The European Space Agency, meanwhile, has developed new "high efficiency solar cells" for use in space-as a substitute for nuclear power. And in 2003 ESA will be launching its Rosetta probe using solar arrays for power-to go beyond the orbit of Jupiter to rendezvous with a comet called Wirtanen. "Rosetta will make first contact with Wirtanen about 675 million km from the sun," notes ESA. That's 500 million miles from the Sun. "At this distance, sunlight is 20 times weaker than on Earth," ESA points out.

But, again, NASA-seeking to coordinate what it does with the U.S. military and wanting to satisfy Lockheed Martin and the national nuclear laboratories-sticks with nuclear-in-space.

Speaking of accidents involving space nuclear devices, I'm not talking about something theoretical, what might just possibly happen. I'm not saying that the sky might be falling. Accidents have already occurred in both the space nuclear programs of the U.S. and former Soviet Union, now Russia-in fact, there has been a 15% accident rate in both nations' space nuclear programs.

And Canada has been seriously impacted.

The most significant U.S. mishap so far happened in 1964 when the U.S. Transit 5BN-3 satellite the SNAP 9A plutonium power system aboard crashed to Earth, the satellite and power system disintegrating. Some 2.1 pounds of plutonium around the world.

"Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear-Powered Satellites," a report prepared in 1989 by health and radiation agencies in Europe-in which the Environmental Radiation Hazards Division of the Department of National Health and Welfare of Canada took part-states: "A worldwide sampling program carried out in 1970 showed SNAP 9A debris to be present at all continents and at all latitudes."

Dr. John Gofman, professor emeritus of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, has long connected that mishap to an increase of lung cancer on Earth. The SNAP-9A accident caused NASA to push the development of solar photovoltaic energy technology-now the power system for satellites.

The worst Soviet space nuclear accident-one resulting in contamination here in Canada-occurred in 1978 when the Cosmos 954 satellite with a nuclear reactor aboard crashed into the Northwest Territories of Canada splattering nuclear debris over a vast area.

According to "Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear-Powered Satellites," "In the early morning hours of January 24, l978, Cosmos 954 commenced reentering the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. The satellite, glowing from the friction of the atmosphere at high altitude, was first spotted by telescopic camera observation from the Maui Observatory in Hawaii. The object was breaking up and heading toward northern Canada over the Queen Charlotte Islands. It continued for another l2 minutes and 5,500 km before impacting over the Canadian Northwest Territories. Eyewitnesses near the impact zone reported seeing a brilliant, glowing object accompanied by at least a dozen smaller glowing fragments."

"During the first weeks of search, it became apparent that sizeable amounts of radioactive debris had survived reentry and was spread over a 600 km path from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake," the report goes on. "Along the path more than fifty large radioactive fragments were recovered" and there were "other chunks, flakes and slivers" found.

"In addition to the fragments, which fell along a well defined track, a wide area stretching southwards from Great Slave Lake was affected by scattered small particles (0.l - l mm) from the enriched fuel in the reactor core." Ultimately, the "total search area" for radioactive material from Cosmos 954 "covered about l24,000 square kilometers" of the Northwest Territories, says the report.

States "Operation Morning Light: Terror In Our Skies, The True Story of Cosmos 954," a book by Leo Heaps: "No one is far away from Yellowknife. We are all closer than we think. The Barrens have been dusted with poison."

The most recent Russian space nuclear accident: the crash of the Russian Mars '96 space probe with a half-pound of plutonium aboard into Chile and Bolivia.

Cassini carried the most plutonium of any space device-so far.

And what a colossal disaster could have occurred if it screwed up.

NASA in its "Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission" said that if the probe did not fly overhead as planned but dipped into the Earth's 75-mile high atmosphere on the "flyby"-making an "inadverent reentry"-it would break up (Cassini had no heat shield), plutonium would be released and-these are NASA's words-"approximately 5 billion of the…world population at the time…could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure."

NASA, in its plan, said that if plutonium rained down on areas of natural vegetation, it might have to "relocate animals," if it fell an agricultural land, "ban future agricultural land uses" and, if it rained down on urban areas, to "demolish some or all structures" and "relocate affected population permanently."

As to the human death toll: Dr. Gofman projected 950,000 dying as a result of a Cassini "flyby" accident. Dr. Ernest Sternglass, professor emeritus of radiological physics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, estimated the death toll at between 20 and 40 million.

The Outer Space Treaty declares that "states shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects." But NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy in 1991 entered into a "Space Nuclear Power Agreement" to cover America nuclear space flights with the Price-Anderson Act. This is a U.S. law which limits liability in the event of a nuclear to $8.9 billion for U.S. domestic damage and just $100 million for damage to all foreign nations.

Thus if an "inadverent reentry" of Cassini back into the Earth's atmosphere occurred last year, and part of Canada or nations in Europe or Africa or Asia suffered nuclear contamination, all the nations and all the people affected could have collected in damages-despite the amount of land left polluted, the number of people who would develop cancer-would have been $100 million.

We must all work together-and time is of the essence-to end the nuclearization and prevent the weaponization of space. The placement of nuclear poisons overhead must be stopped. We must insure that the heavens not be turned into a war zone.

The worldwide organization active on both these quite intertwined issues is the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space based in Gainesville, Florida. The Global Network last April in Washington, D.C. sponsored a series of events titled "Star Wars Revisited: An International Conference on Preventing an Arms Race in Space." U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich gave the keynote address. Earlier that week, addressing the U.S. Congress, he declared: "Let us work for peace on Earth, not war in space."

People from all over the world must come together to keep space for peace. Nations should join together-as Secretary-General Annan said last year-"to codify principles which can ensure that outer space remains weapons-free." Your neighbor to the south desperately needs the guidance-and a push-from this great, peaceful nation of Canada to do the right thing.


Karl Grossman, full professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, has specialized in investigative reporting for more than 30 years. He is the coordinator of the college's Media & Communications Major.

Books he has authored include "The Wrong Stuff : The Space Program's Nuclear Threat To Our Planet" (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press). His book "Weapons In Space" will be published this December (New York, New York: Seven Stories Press). He is writer and narrator of the video documentary "Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens" (Fort Tilden, New York: EnviroVideo).

Professor Grossman is a charter member of the Commission on Disarmament Education, Conflict Resolution and Peace of the International Association of University Presidents and the United Nations.

Professor Grossman's home address: Box 1680, Sag Harbor, New York, U.S.A. 11963.
Telephone: (631) 725-2858.
Fax: (631) 725-9338
E-mail: kgrossman@hamptons.com



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