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Space United States

Weapons in Space 939

SWG_Eddie submits this story about the U.S. military beginning the militarization of space. We've done a few previous stories on this, such as this one. Putting weapons in earth orbit is not forbidden by any treaty or law.
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Weapons in Space

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  • Space Beams (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dolo666 ( 195584 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:30AM (#8768285) Journal
    Sure the Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) has a low-orbit only kill-vehicle now, but how long before it has an Electron Beam Device [] that can annihilate a person playing golf or taking a shower (possibly with company)?
    • by CleverNickedName ( 644160 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:37AM (#8768354) Journal
      Sure the Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) has a low-orbit only kill-vehicle now, but how long before it has an Electron Beam Device that can annihilate a person playing golf or taking a shower (possibly with company)?

      I'm sure there's some sort of reflective headgear you could wear to protect against this.
      • by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <> on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:13PM (#8770074) Homepage
        As a board certified Metallic Foil Haberdasherer, I should point out that Aluminium is an excellent conductor both of heat and electricity. It might do rather well against a visible frequency beam weapon, but against IR, it might not do so well. An electron beam, likewise, might be less than great. For this reason, anyone seekend to defend against weapons grade death rays with an AluFoil hat should get an insulated Abstract type hat. The abstract design permits the creator to use a honeycomb design, and an insulating layer would help keep you safe from electrical discharge.

        Please, people, the right hat for the right job!
        • The physics says... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Iowaguy ( 621828 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:10PM (#8771315)
          When you look at the euqations for the optical properties of metals, all of them do well in reflecting long wavelength light (such as IR or microwave) with near perfection. Foil hat would work great.

          Furthermore, there is only a narrow window where IR light can penetrate into the atmosphere, where water does not adsorb. Condsidering that any fear you have of IR is that the water in your body will get heated, this makes such a weapon silly. If you ignore the window, you have a very notrivial amount of humid atmosphere to do the job for you. Especially if like me, you live in Houston. :)

          I hate to let facts get in the way of fantasy, but thought you would want to know.

          My two cents
    • Re:Space Beams (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shanen ( 462549 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:40AM (#8768997) Homepage Journal
      Sure the Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) has a low-orbit only kill-vehicle now, but how long before it has an Electron Beam Device that can annihilate a person playing golf or taking a shower (possibly with company)?
      Well, I've looked at most of the current posts, and this early one was one of the closest to insightful. The reason for space weapons is to sustain the terror, and bringing the terror to the individual level is only the natural extension.

      In today's example, think how convenient it would be to have snuffed that new troublemaker in Iraq? The tin hats really will be in fashion. All the crazies will have all their followers parading around in them. Not with any fantasy of blocking the high energy beams. Just trying to confuse the spotters who would be able to direct the beam to the target.

      The current violence-based situation in Iraq is that the country is dangling on the edge of total chaos. The Sunnis have been causing trouble all along, mostly because they had it relatively good under Saddam. Now the Shia are on the edge of general revolt. They're still the majority, and they've been sort of quiet on the theory that they would get control when "democracy" arrived. [Can't imagine how they got that idea if they were paying any attention to Florida 2000 and 5-4.] Since the Shia have apparently woken up and realized they're getting conned, it isn't likely to quiet down now. All that's left is for the Kurds to go nuts again. And why not? The Kurds know they're going to get screwed again no matter who wins, so they might as well get what they can while the getting's good.

      The neocon fantasy of ruling by pure force just doesn't work. You can only stay awake so long, and when you blink, when you drop the barrel of the gun for the shortest moment, hell breaks loose. If they have nothing to lose, their ONLY remaining interest is how to take you with them.

      The solution is sharing the toys. People that have something to lose have the tendency to want to keep it.

      Nah, it will never work. The BushCo people got rich because they were greedy and wanted more. The kernel of greed is not to be satisfied, but always to want more, and more, and more. More guns. Less sleep.

      Until the big thud.

    • Actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by artemis67 ( 93453 )
      that would be an incredibly useful military weapon. Remeber when Bill Clinton "wagged the dog" during Lewinskigate and tried to kill Osama by lobbing a few missles at him? The time it took for the missles to travel to their destination gave Bin Laden ample time to escape.

      If we had had a low-orbital beam weapon like this, there would not have been a 9/11.
      • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lee7guy ( 659916 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:06AM (#8769264)
        that would be an incredibly useful military weapon. Remeber when Bill Clinton "wagged the dog" during Lewinskigate and tried to kill Osama by lobbing a few missles at him? The time it took for the missiles to travel to their destination gave Bin Laden ample time to escape.

        If we had had a low-orbital beam weapon like this, there would not have been a 9/11.

        This is plain laughable.

        First, US intelligence is obviously not accurate enough to serve as a basis for where terrorist leaders camp. (bombed civilian factory, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, etc.)

        Second, do you really think the military would have had time to react, decide they were a real threat and not a "regular" hijack, and annihilate these airplanes before they reached their targets?

        Military fighters were stationed within reach and could easily have shot down these planes if official reaction and decision time were as short as you suggest.

        The only way of abolishing terror is by changing the policies that feed the responsible organizations.
        • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:24AM (#8769511) Journal
          The only way of abolishing terror is by changing the policies that feed the responsible organizations.

          Also known as surrender? Yeah I suppose that works. I'll get in my time machine and tell that to Churchill -- it would have been the most effective way to end the Battle of Britain after all.

          But on a more serious note do you really think this would solve terrorism? Bin Ladin and his ilk desire a World dominated by an Islamic form of Government that would make the Taliban look like a champion of individual liberties and justice. I'm sorry but I'm not ready for my girlfriend/mother/sister to wear a Burka nor am I ready for my younger brother to have his hand cut off because he got caught shoplifting a few years ago.

          Changing our policies might deny them a few followers (i.e: the common-man on the street in the Muslim World hating the US and our allies) but it's not going to stop or deter them. Unfortunately it seems like the only way to stop the true fanatics is to kill them.

          • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <.slashdot. .at.> on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:34PM (#8770287) Homepage Journal
            Also known as surrender? Yeah I suppose that works. I'll get in my time machine and tell that to Churchill -- it would have been the most effective way to end the Battle of Britain after all.

            No. It's known as "knowing thy enemy."

            The best way to end any war is to convince your enemy not to fight it. If you can do so by taking actions that do not compromise your position, you should do so.

            Since the terrorist's main real claim is our abhorrent treatment of other nations, the best way to stop the terrorists is to stop mistreating the various nations they come from.

            As for the other significant causes of terrorism--How about we just leave Israel alone for a few years, and let that problem sort itself out?
  • by Biotech9 ( 704202 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:32AM (#8768296) Homepage it could be the start of a new cold war, or at least cause some countries to get a little nervous about the U.S.

    Specifically, China.
    • by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:35AM (#8768333) Homepage Journal
      The first thing I thought of when I read your post was: Why would China worry? GWBush couldn't find them on a map.

      This is very bad in my opinion but what has this administration done that isn't bad?
    • As opposed to the good side?
    • I worry about more than that, I worry about the closing of space for generations!

      But in reality, space does not clear after an explosion near our planet. The fragments continue circling the Earth, their orbits crossing those of other objects. Paint chips, lost bolts, pieces of exploded rockets--all have already become tiny satellites, traveling at about 27,000 kilometers per hour, 10 times faster than a high-powered rifle bullet. A marble traveling at such speed would hit with the energy of a one-ton saf
  • not (Score:5, Informative)

    by AnonymousCowheart ( 646429 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:32AM (#8768297) Homepage
    not forbidden, but looks like it may be:
    " In concluding, I would like to stress that efforts to achieve a ban on the weaponization of outer space must continue so as to protect the space assets of all nations in the interests of international peace and security."
  • That's Because (Score:4, Interesting)

    by technomancerX ( 86975 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:32AM (#8768304) Homepage
    Putting weapons in earth orbit is not forbidden by any treaty or law.

    That's because we've withdrawn from any treaties that restricted this

    • Re:That's Because (Score:4, Interesting)

      by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:47AM (#8768462)
      From what I heard, there is only one actual weapon in space right now: it's a pistol aboard the Soyuz escape capsule on the ISS. You never know - might land _way_ off-course.

      Personally, I think it would be nice to keep it that way.

      • This is for reals! (Score:3, Informative)

        by dogfart ( 601976 )
        According to []:

        The Cold War may be done for, but there are still guns in space, and all of them are Russian. The survival kit in the Soyuz spacecraft which ferries cosmonauts to and from the Mir space station is said to contain, among other things, a pistol and ammunition. This is not so much to put down the occasional space mutiny, but as a precaution in case of an off-course landing in a region with dangerous wildlife. In March 1965, due to failure of the pr

    • Re:That's Because (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:50AM (#8768492)

      People never mention that! During the war on Iraq, people were going on about how many security council resolutions Iraq broke, but they never mentioned the amount the US vetoed, thereby avoiding having to break them when they did what they wanted.

      The US vetoes more international laws than any other country. It's not hard to see how it breaks as few international laws as it does.

      Anyway. America doesn't care about the treaties it has signed up to, if it gets in the way.

      • Re:That's Because (Score:3, Informative)

        by argStyopa ( 232550 )
        Did you ever think that *perhaps* the reson the US is the most likely to veto resolutions by the UN is precisely because most of them are aimed at the US - either harming the US and/or it's allies, or at the very least limiting the options available to the US? (cf. Gulliver's Travels).

        Spending even a moment's thought, it's fairly logical to see that weaker powers (i.e. all of them) are going to resort to attempted collective action to try to restrain a superpower, ESPECIALLY one not constrained by a count
  • Not forbidden? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot.jawtheshark@com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:32AM (#8768305) Homepage Journal
    Putting weapons in earth orbit is not forbidden by any treaty or law.

    Who cares? Even if it were, we all know by now that international treaties and international law are null and void. They can do whatever they please.

    • Re:Not forbidden? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by broeman ( 638571 )
      and we all know that "they" are the US government? or what countries are you talking about? I am getting annoyed about people who (still) believe in the "clash of civilisations" where the poor (undemocratic) countries are going to fight the "civilised" world.

      Since the breakdown of the Sovjet union, the world cheered for peace and everyone did their best to join as many international treaties as possible. The few who didn't was the US. The reason: to easier fight back on socalled "evil" societies.

      I find
      • Re:Not forbidden? (Score:5, Informative)

        by onyxruby ( 118189 ) * <onyxruby&comcast,net> on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:48AM (#8769071) l

        Ignorance can be cured, but I can't help it if your stupid. Have you bothered to check out facts about the whole thing or does your news just consist of getting a few anti-US that reaffirm your world view? Regardless I'm going to try to answer your questions.

        As for direct Democratic control, US soldiers answer to the Commander in Chief aka the president. To answer the direct control question, this occurs because the Constitution gives it to him in order to assure the military answers to a leader democraticaly elected by the people. The cabinet as a whole has no control of the military.

        As for treaties, the US doesn't sign a lot of treaties because they tend to bind us whilst other parties typicaly give them lip service at best. I'll provide two good examples. The Geneva convention which is supposed to protect soldiers in times of war and is probably the second most broken treaty in history, yet most countries have signed it. How about the UN human rights treaties?

        In theory these are supposed to protect about every person in the world. In reality most nations disregard the treaty like they do all the others. It does no good to enter a treaty with someone that will only pay lip service or is fundamentaly incapable of following it.

        How are we supposed to believe other nations would stick to their obligations on things like Kyoto (have you actually read how lopsided it is?), when most nations can't even stick to the basics like human rights and treatment of enemy soldiers in battle?
  • Wrong. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chess_the_cat ( 653159 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:34AM (#8768318) Homepage
    From a quick Google search: The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, outlawing "the appropriation of space" by any nation, bans orbiting vehicles bearing nuclear weapons. Earliest negotiations between the superpowers on arms limitations, SALT I, resulted in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. The ABM Treaty forbids missile defense shields such as Ronald Reagan's 1983 Star Wars initiative. Likewise, it outlaws the Ballistic Missile Defense boondoggle currently under development. The two space technology programs have cost taxpayers over $100 billion dollars and if pursued, could cost $250 billion more. But Russia says Nyet"to abrogating or amending the ABM Treaty to permit "space defenses."

    Last November, the UN General Assembly reaffirmed the Outer Space Treaty, reserving space for peaceful use only. But the United States abstained from the vote. The region beyond the stratosphere is seen by the Pentagon as a theater of engagement. A 1996 Air Force report predicts "space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness [will] effect very many kills ... This technology [is] advanced at Los Alamos National Lab and other nuclear weapons labs" (Air and Space Power for the 21st Century).

    • Re:Wrong. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:36AM (#8768349)
      Did the submitter even read the link he posted? From the link: The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, whose 35th anniversary we are commemorating this year, establishes the principles governing peaceful activities of States in outer space. The Treaty bans the orbiting and stationing of nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction. It further provides that the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and prohibits the establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any kind of weapon and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies. These principles were further elaborated by the Moon Treaty of 1979. Both Treaties are not yet universally accepted. While the Outer Space Treaty has 96 parties, only 9 States have ratified the Moon Treaty. Further accessions to both Treaties are essential to ensure the validity of the regime and I urge those States that have not yet done so to adhere to both Treaties as soon as possible.
    • Re:Wrong. (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcolflesh ( 710514 )
  • by PrintError ( 708568 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:34AM (#8768319) Journal
    NASA and the USAF have joined forces to place two hundred Spud guns in orbit! GotSpud []
  • by gkuz ( 706134 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:34AM (#8768324)
    whenever I see "[whatever] in Space" of the old Muppets "Pigs in Spaaaaace!" .
  • by hookedup ( 630460 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:34AM (#8768325)

    Is this what it's going to take to get a space elevator built? Maybe this is the push it needs..

    We seem to move ahead pretty quickly when it involves destroying each other.

  • by jeff.paulsen ( 6195 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:37AM (#8768358)
    There have been persistent rumors that Salyut-3 had a 23mm autocannon mounted, and occasional denials.

    On another level, any reaction drive is useful as a weapon in proportion to its efficiency, which was the topic of a Larry Niven story some years back.
    • by jeff.paulsen ( 6195 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:29AM (#8768907)
      Hate to reply to my own post, but I found a reference (it's Wikipedia [], but that's something - even if I'm wrong, I'm not the only one):
      Salyut 3 was launched on June 25, 1974. It was another Almaz military space station, this one launched successfully. It tested a wide variety of reconnaissance sensors, returning a canister of film for analysis. On January 24, 1975 trials of the on-board 23mm Nudelmann aircraft cannon (other sources say it was a Nudelmann NR-30 30mm gun) were conducted with positive results at ranges from 3000 m to 500 m. Cosmonauts have confirmed that a target satellite was destroyed in the test. The next day, the station was ordered to deorbit. Only one of the three intended crews successfully boarded and manned the sation, brought by Soyuz 14; Soyuz 15 attempted to bring a second crew but failed to dock. Nevertheless, Salyut 3 was an overall success.
      Also, Astronautix has a couple of inconclusive pictures (the purported gun is in the lower left, and while clearly not axially mounted, is at least aligned with the long axis of the craft): large inconclusive pic [] zoomed in inconclusive pic []. For comparison, here's a good picture of an NR-23 autocannon: Nudelmann-Richter 23mm Cannon [].
  • by shoppa ( 464619 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:38AM (#8768367)
    Most of the money goes to beam weapons of one kind of another. Still (and probably forever) Flash Gordon technology.

    Kinetic energy weapons are probably useful, but testing and re-use are extremely difficult things in the harsh space environment.

    If you have a manned presence in space, the most effective weapon to take out an enemy satellite is probably a shotgun.

  • by Chuck Bucket ( 142633 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:40AM (#8768392) Homepage Journal
    "Mars has recently sought significant quantities of urainum, from Africa."


  • Soviet Weapons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:40AM (#8768399) Homepage
    The Soviets have already deployed offensive weapons in space. A large calibre cannon was included on the Salyut-3 space station. In tests, it is reported to have destroyed a target satellite during testing.
  • Not exactly. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:41AM (#8768403)
    From the link in the post itself, for the article, which claims to demonstrate that weapons aren't prohibited in any way in space...

    The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, whose 35th anniversary we are commemorating this year, establishes the principles governing peaceful activities of States in outer space. The Treaty bans the orbiting and stationing of nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction. It further provides that the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and prohibits the establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any kind of weapon and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies. These principles were further elaborated by the Moon Treaty of 1979.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:42AM (#8768413)
    Isn't a sattelite used to track enemy postitions and guide other weapons considered part of a "weapons system"?
  • by Steve B ( 42864 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:44AM (#8768427)
    Putting weapons in earth orbit is not forbidden by any treaty or law.

    If somebody violates such a treaty or law, what are you going to do about it -- shoot down the offending weapons?

  • This is necessary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kjdames ( 588423 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:45AM (#8768445)
    It's a vicious circle - [insert country name here] needs to have this because if we don't, [insert country name here] will.

    Humans are naturally antagonistic. Violence is our nature. Peace is universally sought after, but it is always only a temporarily-reachable goal, because the only way to achieve it is to make the consequences of attacking too severe. Then somebody discovers a way to lessen those consequences, so another "preventative measure" must be found...

    Realize that benefits other than protection will almost certainly come from this as well. Advances in technology, science, etc. will be made.

    • by lavalyn ( 649886 )
      Do we really need another Cold War? I can see it now, the videos going "When the terrorists strike, get under your desks and pray."

      I disagree with the notion that humans are antagonistic. Granted, they are self-serving, but what is good for me may also be good for you. The entire notion of service industry commerce is based on that.
  • Star Wars (Score:3, Funny)

    by DrugCheese ( 266151 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:46AM (#8768450)
    I suspect we've had weapons in space for some time. Reagan cut the Star Wars project budget at a time of its exponential growth ... why? Probably so that we didn't have to keep public all the vast improvements we were making in the field of lasers.

    Why go back to the moon? Because in military conflict higher ground gives you an advantage. Why build a space station when we're already got a natural space station that orbits us already?

  • Here's the problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:48AM (#8768476)
    We know that other nations are getting to be space-capable. Are we just to trust that they won't put weapons up there? Has China really got that great a record with respecting human rights? And do we really think that Pakistan/India wouldn't put a weapon system up if the other was suspected of having one?

    The Pearl Harbor analogy is correct. Who loses space, loses any war.
  • by colonelteddy ( 556564 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:49AM (#8768490) Journal
    What about if i put a giant "Laser" on the moon??
    I plan to turn the moon into what I like to call a "Death Star"
  • by Himring ( 646324 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:57AM (#8768569) Homepage Journal
    What about the famous "Star Wars" project under Reagan? Sagan led the charge against it even making fun of the concept at one point. The point still standing that, when all is said and done, it's simply impractical to implement military deployment, of any kind, in space especially when considering the cost:

    WHY STAR WARS IS DANGEROUS AND WON'T WORK By Carl Sagan, Hans A. Bethe, Henry W. Kendall, Kurt Gottfried, Richard L. Garwin, Victor F. Weisskopf

    The following statement by six prominent scientists on the dangers of Star Wars appeared as part of a letter to The Wall Street Journal on January 2, 1985

    A nearly impermeable strategic defense system would indeed have the capability to "save lives" rather than to "avenge them," to replace strategic deterrence by defense. But such a system is not in the cards, as even the program's director, General James Abrahamson, readily admits. Anything short of an impermeable system tends to undermine, not improve, US national security. Here are some of the reasons that we consider the Star Wars scheme unworkable and a grave danger to the United States:

    -- Underflying: Star Wars does not defend against, or even address, low-altitude delivery systems--bombers and cruise missiles, and "suitcase" nuclear weapons. By themselves, they are able to destroy both nations; Star Wars would accelerate their development.

    -- Overwhelming: The number of strategic warheads in the Soviet arsenal (as in our own) is about 10,000. If even a few percent of these warheads exploded on US territory it would represent an unparalleled human disaster and effective collapse of the United States as a functioning political entity. The Soviets could keep ahead of any American Star Wars system because it is cheaper to build new warheads than to shoot down old ones (and easier to shoot down orbiting defensive systems than incoming missiles).

    -- Outfoxing: It is cheaper to build countermeasures than to build Star Wars. Some decades in the future when a (still highly permeable) US Star Wars system might be deployed, the Soviets would have added tens or hundreds of thousands of decoys and other penetration aids to their arsenal. Their objective would be to fatally confuse the American Star Wars system, which can never be adequately tested except in a real nuclear war.

    -- Cost: Former Secretaries of Defense Harold Brown and James Schlesinger, and senior Pentagon spokesmen of this Administration, have all estimated the full Star Wars cost as hundreds of billions to one trillion dollars.

    -- Soviet preemption: Despite US reassurances, the Soviets perceive Star Wars as part of a US first strike strategy, allowing us to launch a preemptive attack and then to destroy the remnant of any surviving Soviet retaliatory forces. In a time of severe crisis, this may tempt the Soviet Union to make a preemptive first strike against the United States.

    -- Institutional momentum: When a trillion dollars is waved at the US aerospace industry, the project in question will rapidly acquire a life of its own--independent of the validity of its public justifications. With jobs, corporate profits, and civilian and military promotions at stake, a project of this magnitude, once started, becomes a juggernaut, the more difficult to stop the longer it rolls on.

    We do not oppose defense in principle. We are in favor of carefully bounded research in this area, as in many others; we are also concerned that the line between research and early deployment of key Star Wars components not be blurred. Several of us have devoted considerable effort to research on missile defense. Some of us have advocated missile defense for individual missile silos. But we agree with Department of Defense experts who make it clear that cities cannot be so protected. Mr. Schlesinger has said "in our lifetime and that of our children, cities will be protected by forebearance of those on the other side, or through effective deterrence."

    Hans A. Bethe

    Richard L. Garwin

    Kurt Gottfried

    Henry W. Kendall

    Carl Sagan

    Victor Weisskopf

    Cornell University

    Ithaca, New York

    • by Aapje ( 237149 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:45AM (#8769040) Journal
      The way I see it, this is one big pork barrel. From a military perspective, it seems quite useless. The two major threats to the US are terrorism and nuclear missiles. I don't see how space militarization will be more than marginally effective against terrorism. Furthermore, we know that a space shield is probably never going to be effective at stopping nukes. Tests to take down simple ballistic missiles were only marginally succesful and there are plenty of ways to increase the effectiveness of nukes. Multiple warheads and scramjet propulsion are just two techniques which complicate the interception of nukes by many orders of a magnitude.

      When the US takes a step towards Star Wars, competitors will simply improve their missiles. It seems likely that those improvements are much less costly than the defensive technology. Let's face it, space is extremely expensive. Bombing or shooting rockets from space is incredibly costly because you must first lift the materials up there and then shoot them back down. Earth-based systems (such as nukes) will have the advantage until new lifting technologies are developed. The only option which doesn't require lifting materials to rearm are lasers, but they can be countered with a reflective layer, so they aren't likely to be the answer.

      Finally, if war is brought to space, there is a serious risk of destroying both commercial and military sattelites and 'contaminating' geostationary orbit with debris, making it unusable. Is this a Pandora's box that the US wants to open?
  • by benj_e ( 614605 ) <.walt.eis. .at.> on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:58AM (#8768577) Journal
    These are two different things. Space has been militarized almost from the get-go.

    Eisenhower's "open-skies" concept was specifically for military use of space, i.e. remote sensing and treaty verification. That is also the idea behind the "sanctuary" doctrine that guides a lot of US policy.

    The idea of weaponization can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask. Everything from space-based weapons platforms to ground based ASATs could be considered space weapons.

    As far as placing weapons in space, only WMD are prohibited. No one really wants nukes in space anyway. Nuke based ASAT weapons would be pretty indicriminate can would take out a lot of hardware.
  • Good For Us (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pave Low ( 566880 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:03AM (#8768643) Journal
    I'm always amused to see how slashbots turn into hysterical luddites when it comes to technology that is implemented by someone they don't like. The fact is the seas are militarized, and the skies was militarized as soon as airplanes were invented.

    P Why space should be untouchable to some strikes me as weird. The US has the most advanced space technology right now. Continuing research on using this lead in defending our country is a valid goal. There's plenty of legitimate applications here. China, North Korea, Iran would think twice if they knew they could get zapped as soon as they launched a missile at us or our friends.

    This Slashdot crusade by michael against space weapons is getting tired. It seems to come up once a month.

    • Re:Good For Us (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JustNiz ( 692889 )
      >> Why space should be untouchable to some strikes me as weird.

      The simple reason is that its a new and final chance. There are no more new frontiers. Do we still have to make the same stupid mistakes over and over again, or can we actually act on what we have learned time and again through costly experience, that weapons don't bring peace, and war is just self-destructive.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:04AM (#8768650)
    Us: Puts some space defense.
    Them: Shoots it down.
    Us: Finds a way to protect a new one
    Them: Finds a way around it.
    Us: Send more Man Flights to Protect them.
    Them: Sends more Man Flights to Protect them.
    A small to mid size war.
    After the war.
    Both sides: Now have affordable, safe, and High Tech space equipment.

    The sad part is that most innovation only occurs in conflict. If it wasn't for the cold war we probably have never been to the moon. If it wasn't for WWI And WWII we would not have Commonly used airplanes and Jet Plains. Or the electronic Computer. Many of our technology that we use today originally came from warfare.
  • Ha! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spacefight ( 577141 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:09AM (#8768689)
    Putting weapons in earth orbit is not forbidden by any treaty or law.

    That doesn't mean one should do it...
  • by sushi5000 ( 638470 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:21AM (#8768831)
    ...can be found here [], as well as
    detailed information about any death machine you could possibly think of.

    Also see missile defense [] (Condi's favourite),
    or nukes []
    or conventional weapons [].

    Tons of material there...

  • by spectrokid ( 660550 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:23AM (#8768849) Homepage
    Especially those who have done the most harm to the USA in the last 50 years? What was it again? Nukes? Anthrax? Laser guided super bombs? Oh no, that's right...Stanley knives!
  • by ericlp ( 749865 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:28AM (#8768893)
    One of the most potent weapons we have uses the GPS network orbiting the earth to assit targeting.

    Those satellites are themselves a very important part of a weapon system that allows us to hit any position on the globe with a sub 4 meter accuracy in almost any weather. ( JDAM, JSOW, JASSM, etc etc ). IMHO that makes those GPS satellites weapons.

    Also, what about near space? That scram jet test the other day would lead the way for a very impractical airliner. It would lead the way to an excellent strategic bomber. The ability for an agent/Special Forces troop, put a modified 2000lb JDAM on someones head anywhere on the globe within a few hours sounds mighty handy. Like calling out for pizza.
  • Kinetic missiles? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bunji X ( 444592 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:41AM (#8769000)
    From article: But the satellite will also contain a smaller "kill vehicle," a projectile that takes advantage of the kinetic energy of objects traveling through low-Earth orbit (which move at several times the speed of a bullet) to disable or destroy an oncoming missile or another orbiting satellite.

    Sounds to me a lot like the "kinetic harpoons" described in the "Night's Dawn Triology" by Peter F Hamilton.

    A recommended SF read too, if you like the genre.
  • Bloody typical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2@earthsh[ ] ['od.' in gap]> on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:50AM (#8769090)
    The USA likes to have the biggest guns, but gets all worried when someone else might have a weapon.

    What is it that makes you imagine that non-Americans would be any more likely than Americans to ignore a worldwide ban on weapons research / deployment? What makes you imagine that non-Americans would be any more likely than Americans to use weapons of mass destruction if they had them?

    Let's just say no weapons in space, full stop.
  • by StormyMonday ( 163372 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:04AM (#8769246) Homepage
    Looks to me like another boondoggle to Protect Us From the Soviet Union. A bunch of Republican campaign contributers get a whole pile of tax money and the military gets some more expensive, useless toys.

    All the serious analyses of future warefare that I've seen have third-world "rogue states" and semi-organized terrorists as opponents. How do space weapons help here? I don't think we have to worry about some future Saddam Hussein's space capabilities.

    Note also that, given high-tech opposition (from who? I dunno.) the US has a *lot* more to lose than anybody else. Check out what a Keyhole satellite costs ...
  • Maginot Line (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demachina ( 71715 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:04PM (#8770004)
    Space defense has all the appearance of a Maginot line. Its very expensive to build and very easy to defeat, especially in an age of asymmetric warfare. When the most devastating attack in U.S. history was done with civilian airlines explain to me the value of fixating on missile defense. Its a relic of cold war thinking when the one true threat the U.S. had was a missile attack from the U.S.S.R.

    Missile defense is also very lucrative to the big aerospace companies who want to get the multibillion dollar contracts. You can be sure they are lobbying hard and spreading around campaign contributions to make it happen. A sympathetic Republican administration and big defense companies lobbying for them is an assurance these programs will continue for the forseeable future and will expand.

    The only attack this system might prevent is a rogue state, with a few primitive missiles, like North Korea launching a missile at the U.S. If they know the missile defense is there they can just put their nukes on tramp steamers and sail them in to the harbors of major U.S. cities. They only way to deal with states like North Korea is to disarm them, one way or another. If there is any state that deserves to be taken down for WMD's and repressive dictatorship its North Korea, not Iraq. Only prolbem is if we try they will probably devastate Seoul and may retaliate with nukes against South Korea and the U.S., if they have them. The Bush administration will never be able to explain the rational for leaving North Korea in tact, taking down Iraq, and letting Pakistan get away with proliferating nuclear weapons technology to anyone with a few million dollars. We took down Iraq for a vague suspicion of developing nuclear weapons. North Korean has them and Pakistan has been really proliferating them, wholesale, and we haven't done much since we caught on.

    If you turn to Russia, they had largely stopped developing strategic weapons. Thanks to the Bush administrations saber rattling they are now going to resume the arms race. They've already announced plans to develop warheads with manuevering capability to defeat ABM's, massive decoy strategies are also inevitable, and they are resuming work on their own missile defense. Another way to beat missile defense is to deploy massive numbers of new missiles. One reason the U.S. and U.S.S.R signed a treaty banning ABM's is because they had the foresight to look ahead and see the consequence of deploying them. Both countries would have dramaticly escalated missile production in order to be sure they could overwhelm the new defense. As bad as the arms race was Mutual Assured Destruction kept it in check. When you start deploying defenses and start planning to try to win a nuclear war it leads to two things:

    A. A greater risk of a war happening if one side thinks they can win without significant damage thanks to defenses.
    B. The arms race spirals out of control, as countries build massive numbers of new missiles to overwhelm the others defenses, and then massive new defense to counter the huge numbers of new missiles.

    All in all the world would have been a better place without restarting the arms race. Thank you again, little George.
  • by Marc Desrochers ( 606563 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:15PM (#8770100)
    I can just see it now.... Some alien species is going to see this and wonder "WTF, they have space weapons, and they're pointed at themselves!?"
  • by JohnnyComeLately ( 725958 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:29PM (#8770245) Homepage Journal
    I will comment on a few things I've seen posted here.

    Weapons in space have been in existence for some time. If you call a duck a duck, then a satellite with a sole response of killing another satellite is a weapon. The Soviets demonstrated their capabilities quite some time ago to perform this maneuver. To be honest, Star Wars scared the beejeesus out of the Soviets and they tried every measure possible to stop us from developing it. When we "won" the cold war, there wasn't a reason to keep the measure alive since no other country was so capable of putting a nuke on our doorstep in minutes.

    This is why Cuba was such a huge issue for us. No time to counter a first strike. If you'll note, we always strike with a heavy first blow, because it's strategically important to do so.

    Getting back on-topic. Given the facts above, I really question the credility or motives of the "Expert" cited in the article. Anyone involved in Space, and most certainly any Air Force related personnel, would know about the previous weapons. I've got a copy of the USAF Space Handbook (issued to AF Officers in Space Command), dated over 10 years ago, which outline the Soviet's program in good detail.

    The rest of the posts on here seem to really stray off topic, but I'll entertain a few. The problem the US has had is that we see things differently than a good number out there. Conversely, they each see things differently than every one else as well. So there's two foreign policies you can follow:

    1. Isolationism

    2. Work with the other governments to further your agenda

    I'd say anyone even remotely familiar with history would agree that option 1 is no option at all. We tried ignoring Osama Bin Laden, the Japanese and German agression in WWIII and others, yet we eventually get sucked in anyway. We can engage in the "chicken and egg", or cause and effect conversation until we're each sleepy or bored, yet neither of us will ever have the definitive correct answer. The key to courage is to make the best of what you have today and move forward.

    This is why we've changed our posture. Is it aggressive? Sure. But so have our enemies...

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