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Space Technology

Military Seeks Approval to Develop Space Weapons 878

ranson writes "The New York Times is reporting that U.S. Air Force officials are seeking Bush's Approval to begin researching and developing space arms. While analysts feel this move will be unwelcome in the international community, military officials believe that "Space superiority ... is our destiny, ... our vision for the future.""
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Military Seeks Approval to Develop Space Weapons

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  • by fembots ( 753724 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:00PM (#12572475) Homepage
    Based on the fact that a 82-billion-dollar emergency budget for military operations [yahoo.com] has just been approved, this "Space Arm Race" might just be the only realistic hope for us to see any space ventures in our life time.

    Is this a variant of how sticky-note Bill are attached (and passed) under another guaranteed Bill?

    I'm sure in order to bring weapons into the space, a lot of technologies will have to be developed, which hopefully will benefit many other sectors.
    • There is not much to develop for a space race (who is really into this race apart from the US btw?).
      It has all been planned in the cold war and it wasn't realized back then *for a reason*. And afterall the US doesn't lack technology in current affairs...
      • China is doing its damnedest to become a military force to be reckoned with. And given their economic growth, China is the only nation with the capability to participate. But given the explanation in the article, it seems that the hawks in the pentagon are more interested in rapid deployment of force across the globe, the consequences (an arms race) be damned.
      • International Space Race Sweepstakes!

        • European Space Agency, riding Arianne V, hoping it won't throw them at the first jump, 100-1 outsiders.
        • China, trying to get something that doesn't blow up, 100-1 outsiders.
        • Russia, who are very good now about not blowing up but whose space center fell down and the only good engineer they had died of a brain tumor some decades ago, 100-1 outsiders.
        • India, who seem to have rockets but don't seem to realize you can't reach orbit on curry powder alone, 100-1 outsiders.
        • The OzRoc team, who could probably reach orbit by climbing up the pile of spent rockets they've launched, but who have never got anything close to orbit by flight, 1000-1 outsiders.
        • Burt Rutan, who seems to have a clue but whose designs spin out of control at the mere sight of a weightless M&M, although his designs HAVE reached the recognized edge of the atmosphere, 1000-1 outsider.
        • Sir Richard Branson, whose ego IS in orbit, would probably try if he wasn't busy trying to make sucker millionaires pay him big bucks to see weightless M&M's for themselves, 10000-1 outsider.
        • The combined forces of the FSF, BSD developers, EFF, Slashdot, Linus Torvalds, a slightly puzzled penguin and some University drinking society - provided the tensions didn't undergo a matter/anti-matter reaction, I'd probably rate this as being the best bet. You have the brains, the raw computing power required, the expertise needed to make use of that computing power, and probably enough financial clout to build something based on the designs worked out. On the other hand, put that lot in the same room, and you'll think the bloodier bits in the Old Testament were tame in comparison. I don't see how you'd get a gestalt out of them, though if you could, it would be close to unstoppable.

    • by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:17PM (#12572632)
      Its sad to see that the 'militarization' of space is the only 'hope' that we have of making additional space ventures.
      • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:55PM (#12572964)
        The original space ventures weren't exactly done for pure science you know. Superiority in space was seen as a major military objective in the 1950s and 1960s, which, combined with the propaganda value, is why the government was willing to pour so much money into it. Apollo would never have happened if we weren't trying to defeat the Soviets.
      • by Kombat ( 93720 ) <kombat@kombat.org> on Thursday May 19, 2005 @07:16AM (#12576618) Homepage
        Its sad to see that the 'militarization' of space

        Am I the only one who's sick of deliberately provocative and inflammatory rhetoric like "weaponization of space" and "militarization of space?" When navys first started developing seagoing military vessels, did partisan pundits of the day describe it as the "weaponization of the seas?" When governments first recognized the military potential of flight, did people cry how it was the "weaponization of the skies?"

        Sorry, pet peeve of mine. I'm sick of double-standards. Weapons on land, sea, and air: OK. Weapons in space: end of civilized mankind. I don't buy it.
    • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:29PM (#12572750) Journal
      I'd rather see no further manned exploration in space for another 50 years than see any exploration (exploitation?) that's driven by a military agenda: all that will acheive is a military build up in space with the US and most probably China developing space-based weapons.

      Space exploration and space science should be carried out on peaceful, scientific grounds only. The world's major militaries can all wipe out life on the face of the Earth already, so being able to do it a few minutes faster with space-borne weapons is hardly my idea of progress.

      Serious science, and even pseudo-science like manned missions to the Moon or Mars, provides the West with the best means of fostering positive relations with China in the medium term, and I'd hate to see any opportunity for the betterment of mankind blown because some cowboy decides that putting nukes above our heads is a smarter move than making sure that nobody will want to do it.

      Just as the US's nukes begat the USSR's, which begat China's, which begat India's, which begat Pakistan's, any overt US militarisation of space would only lead to others following suit.
      • by thefirelane ( 586885 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:03PM (#12573029)
        I know you got a knee jerk + mod... but think about it. You could replace "space" in that whole post with:

        Air flight
        Computer Networking
        Atomic Research

        Face it... the only institution that can continue to pour money somewhere before it is profitable to do so is the military. Space will progress just like everything else has: the military pours money into advancing technology, then when technology is sufficiently advanced private industry picks it up and innovates more.
        • exactly. This is how the internet was founded. It started by the Department of Defence
        • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:20PM (#12573556)
          Face it... the only institution that can continue to pour money somewhere before it is profitable to do so is the military.

          Absolutely and fundamentally incorrect. The Department of Education, for example, is not profitable. NASA isn't profitable. The Forestry Department isn't profitable. Amtrak isn't profitable. The Corporation for Public Broadcast isn't profitable. The UN isn't profitable (jokes aside).

          And in case you're thinking being unprofitable is the sole domain of government, Amazon spent years being not-profitable, and businesses and government aside, there are plenty of non-profit organizations.
        • The military doesn't pay for anything. They are spongers. You pay for everything.
      • by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:41PM (#12573711)
        I agree with you on all your points, and they are well supported historically.

        however, I also agree with the poster who noted that the space program's greatest successes came under the duress of the Cold War. Strife stimulates uncommon innovation. The same cold war that begat those nukes is responsible for everything up to the still functioning mars landers.

        I'm opposed to war on the one hand, but I've accepted the notion that man is inherently warlike; it's something programmed into our genes. The same folks who espouse pacifism on the one hand scream bloody murder at football matches on the other, somehow missing the fact that all sports games are metaphors for war. that said, my hopes for a sudden paradigmatic shift in the very nature of the species is not something I'd put any money on.

        If we're going to live in a warlike world, I'd like to be on the winning team. Call me a frontrunner if you wish, but if anybody is going to have space weapons, I'd certainly like it to be us. As a matter of fact, being the cynic that I am, I'd be surprised if there aren't some already - and these statements are just to warm us up to the fact before the government starts actively using them.

        In regards to fostering positive relations with countries like China and regions like the Middle East, the issue here is fundamentalism, be it culture or religion. These are forces that will bend slowly at best, if at all. So the idea of genuine open positive relations with these regions is unlikely, in my estimation. The only way to foster change, in my estimation, is to actively promote american media in those regions (let MTV re-educate Afghani youth) and ride those guys into office, at which time we can deal with them. Can't deal with the hard line guys in office now.

        All of which to say, space weapons now will put humans on the moon soon, and into the cosmos, where I think some iteration of humanity ultimately belongs.
      • by kupci ( 642531 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:43PM (#12573716)

        Space exploration and space science should be carried out on peaceful, scientific grounds only.

        Given our not-so-stellar record, that's unlikely.

        Serious science, and even pseudo-science like manned missions to the Moon or Mars, provides the West with the best means of fostering positive relations with China in the medium term, and I'd hate to see any opportunity for the betterment of mankind blown because some cowboy decides that putting nukes above our heads is a smarter move than making sure that nobody will want to do it.

        China, except for small altercations with Taiwan and Japan, seems to be taking the 'speak softly and carry a big stick' approach. I agree that any move towards weaponization of space would be matched by them.

        There is an excellent book by Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought : Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War [amazon.com] about World War I and Britain's efforts to stay ahead of Germany, to maintain their sea advantage as their land army was weaker. IIRC, they wanted to maintain a 3:1 ratio over the Germans. Britain as this sort of weakening power, overextended, struggling to maintain it's colonies across all parts of the globe, the sun never setting on their empire, yet the hordes ready to crush their Hadrian's Wall.

        Now the U.S. in a similar situation, relatively unopposed superpower, but it's unclear where the financial and technical ability to invest in Space technology would come from not too far in the future.

        One would think it imperative for the U.S. to balance the budget, start paying off debt, and likewise continuing to keep it's schools (whether college or grade school) top notch.

  • by mbrewthx ( 693182 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:02PM (#12572505)
    That's no moon that's a space station!!!!
  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:04PM (#12572518) Homepage Journal
    It's to enable them to legally deploy them. From TFA:

    With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them.

    I'm wondering if perhaps this isn't also the military wanting to show off a little and provide the public a glimpse of yesterday's technology, similar to what happened with the F-117 circa 1990. Maybe they want to show us what the Aurora really looks like.
  • by bman08 ( 239376 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:04PM (#12572521)
    He's never going to sign this... right? Not Bush... Right. That guy is a conservative who hates spending our tax money on pie in the sky ideas, and loves life... right? He believes we've already got the best weapons in the world, and couldn't imagine us needing more...right? Besides, at his heart, Bush is a diplomat who understands that the US can't go it alone in the world and far be it for him to swing his cock around... right? Right?
  • by GQuon ( 643387 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:04PM (#12572522) Journal
    DefenceTech.org Times' shaky spacewar story [defensetech.org]:

    "[Global Strike] -- which we first looked at back in November 2003 -- is legit, with a hefty $91 million invested into it over the last two years. But, by making so little distinction between this effort and more pie-in-the-sky plans, the Times does its readers a bit of a disservice."
  • NASA vs USAF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dark grep ( 766587 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:07PM (#12572541)
    From informative, well researched fiction by Stephen Baxter (Moonseed) and others, I gather than the USAF has long held a grudge against NASA. Could this be the not so thin edge of the wedge of moving all space funding to a militarily organisation rather than a civilian one?
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:07PM (#12572543)
    "Don't throw the past away,
    You might need it some rainy day,
    Dreams can come true again,
    When ev'ry thing old is new again!

    - Throw rock
    - Hit other guy with stick
    - Throw rock with stick on the end of it
    - Shoot stick with rock on end of it at guy with curved stick
    - Hit rock with fire, make copper, bronze, iron, steel rocks to put on ends of stick
    - Put fire in tube, throw rock with fire.
    - Put fire in metal tube, throw metal rock with fire.
    - Put fire in metal rocks, drop exploding rocks on other guy
    - Drop rocks made of unstable atomic metals on other guy
    - Head for the asteroid belt. Throw rock

  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:09PM (#12572552)

    Gen. Lance Lord, who leads the Air Force Space Command, told Congress recently. "Simply put, it's the American way of fighting."

    Yup...nuke 'em from orbit...that sure sounds like us.

    And many of the nation's allies object to the idea that space is an American frontier.

    Apparently they weren't listening a few years ago when Dubya called 'dibs'.

    Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

    'Rods of God'? Just when I think that the neoconservatives can't get any more arrogant, they serve up this gem. Way to go, guys.

    A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast," in the words of an Air Force plan.

    Sounds like those Air Force boys have been watching too much Real Genius [imdb.com].

    No nation will "accept the U.S. developing something they see as the death star," Ms. Hitchens told a Council on Foreign Relations meeting last month. "I don't think the United States would find it very comforting if China were to develop a death star, a 24/7 on-orbit weapon that could strike at targets on the ground anywhere in 90 minutes."

    Ahh, yes...the Death Star...just in time for the release of Revenge of the Sith. I wonder how much George paid George for that tie-in.

    • by Pyromage ( 19360 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:26PM (#12572726) Homepage

      nuke 'em from orbit...that sure sounds like us.

      Hell yeah it sounds like us. America fights to win. Now maybe we fight too often and in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons (I'm not interested in debating the appropriateness of the most recent war, I hate it, but that's not the question at hand), but when we fight, we don't just march out some poor draftees in front of enemy machine guns to be fair to the enemy. We airstrike them and snipe them and smartbomb them, because we're not there to be fair, we're there to win. We're there to liberate or conquer or raze, but we're not there to die.

      I hate this war and I hate the reasons for it and I hate those who perpetrated it. But I won't hate the man that saves legions of my fellow Americans by taking out the enemy from safe distance.

      It is as great a crime to send our boys in defenseless, ill-equipped, and without backup to die as it is to subjugate and persecute the enemy.

      And as for the name 'rod of god', it's a nickname for Pete's sake. It's not official marketingspeak from the government, it's a bloody nickname! And a pretty damned good one, too.

      • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:45PM (#12573360)
        I hate this war and I hate the reasons for it and I hate those who perpetrated it. But I won't hate the man that saves legions of my fellow Americans by taking out the enemy from safe distance.

        This isn't about "winning", it's about not provoking the rest of the world to hate us (that *certainly* doesn't help "secure peace" in the world!), it's about not militarizing *space* (once we do it, Russia and China will follow--how would *you* feel knowing the Chinese can nuke us from space? Now imagine Chinese space nukes when Taiwan declares independence.), and it's about not being grotesque monsters who nuke whole populations of innocent people.

        Hell yeah, fight to win, but let's remain a people worthy of winning, if we can.

        The neocons suffer from a severe case of hubris. No one's saying "don't fight to win", they're saying, "the only winning move is not to play the game". How can we be so utterly stupid as to be the ones to *start* the game? It's one thing to be forced into it (you can't help that), but voluntarily starting it?
        • First of all, there is no talk of placing nukes into space.

          "the only winning move is not to play the game".

          Ask the French how effective this strategy was in 1940. Our foreign policy is what dertermines our 'worth' - but unchallengable military superiority ensures our freedom.

          "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, noth
          • So lets look at this logically. By your understanding nations can only be free by an unchallengable military superiority, which if I am not mistaken really means being a nuclear power (the whole MAD thing dictates the modern case of an unchallengable military force), therefore by your logic to be a free nation, requires the development of an extensive nuclear arsenal. Therefore for any country hoping to be truly free they must establish a nuclear weapons program.

            Modern warfare demands uncomfortable comprom
          • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @12:16AM (#12574707)
            "the only winning move is not to play the game".

            Ask the French how effective this strategy was in 1940. Our foreign policy is what dertermines our 'worth' - but unchallengable military superiority ensures our freedom.

            The French were in the game and didn't know it. It only takes *one* party to start a war. Right now there's no real space war going on. In other words, *no one* is playing the game. It's disgusting to think *we'd* be the ones to start the game.

            WWII *is* a good example. We didn't start it, but we helped finish it. That's the way it should be. Starting down the path to war undermines ones moral authority.
      • I agree with you in one sense: In a time of war we need to protect our American soldiers using every means possible, including technological superiority.

        In a just war, space-based weaponry could be an incredible asset. However, there is at least one negative consequence to be considered: Such weaponry can lower the bar for what, in Americans' minds, is proper justification to go to war. The more "smart" weapons we have in our arsenal, the easier it is for our leaders to convince Congress and the American

      • nuke 'em from orbit...that sure sounds like us.Hell yeah it sounds like us.America fights to win.

        +4 insightful???!!!Too bad I don't have any mod points left and I can't mod you down enough.

        These weapons, like the "rods of god" are offensive weapons of mass destruction. The international community works hard to reduce the numbers of weapons of mass destruction and what does the US do? They want more!

        The current US administration snobbs the united nations, have opted out of several international treat
      • by TitanBL ( 637189 ) <[brandon] [at] [titan-internet.com]> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:56PM (#12573807)
        Your comment reminded me of this speech. Our foreign policy can be debated, but unchallengeable military superiority is obligatory. If that means weapons in space, then so be it.

        "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. Men, all this stuff you've heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans, love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers ... Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans. Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The Bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post, don't know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating. Now we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know ... My God, I actually pity those poor bastards we're going up against. My God, I do. We're not just going to shoot the bastards, we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel. Now some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you'll chicken out under fire. Don't worry about it. I can assure you that you'll all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friends face, you'll know what to do. Now there's another thing I want you to remember. I don't want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We're not holding anything. let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly, and we're not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We're going to hold onto him by the nose, and we're going to kick him in the ass. We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time, and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose. Now, there's one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you're sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, What did you do in the great World War Two? You won't have to say, Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana. Alright now, you sons of bitches, you know how I feel. I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere. That's all."
        General George S. Patton, Jr.

        BTW - I believe this is an abridged version of his original speech.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:10PM (#12572560) Homepage Journal
    Will some nation eventually deploy weapons in space? I'd say there's a high liklihood.

    To me then, the question boils down to, do you want to be first or attempt to be second?
    • by TheOriginalRevdoc ( 765542 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:04PM (#12573038) Journal
      Being second won't be a major problem. The weapons will take time to develop and mature, so I doubt that the first generation will be perfect. That leaves a decent window for other nations to get going with their own 'death from above' systems.

      I think that's a moot point, anyway. All it takes is a well-aimed bucket of gravel in the right orbit to take out a space-based system. Launching buckets of gravel is pretty cheap, so unless the US system is 100% effective, this system will suffer from the same flaws as the anti-missile system - it's easy to overwhelm it with a lot of cheap countermeasures.
    • Too late (Score:4, Informative)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:16PM (#12573137) Homepage Journal
      The old USSR already did deploy weapons in space.
      The USSR deployed a network of anti Satellite weapons.
      The USSR deployed a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System.
      One of the Some of the Soviet manned missions where military missions.
      The Soviets tried to launch a space battle station it failed to make it to orbit.
      http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/mwade/art icles/sovtion3.htm [friends-partners.org]
    • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:55PM (#12573417)
      It's not really a matter of choice

      Yes, it is. We don't have to *choose* to deploy weapons now, and *that's* the choice some of us are making, poorly.

      Will some nation eventually deploy weapons in space? I'd say there's a high liklihood.

      Probably. It would be *stupid* to do it before it's necessary, though.

      To me then, the question boils down to, do you want to be first or attempt to be second?

      We're the USA, if someone starts to militarize space, we'll just knock their systems down. If they get a legitimate toe-hold in space, *then* we can jump in--it certainly won't take us long to dominate.

      There's just no way a country would pre-emptively attack us from space without an overwhelming chance of victory. But if we begin to truly militarize space, then Russia and China (and India) will as well (unless we truly undertake to conquer the world, shudder). As we all build-up together, it will be far easier for the countries involved to put up enough firepower to launch (and even believe they can win) a first-strike.

      No thanks!
    • You seem to be under the misconception that just because something can be done we must do it. Otherwise someone else (i think the chinese are the current boogeyman) will do it and gosh will we be in trouble.

      Why dont we spend one trillion dollars on building a giant golden pyramid? If we don't the chinese will surely do it before us.

      There is a misconception that if the chinese are first to develop space weapons then they would gain a huge advantage. Fact is, space weapons can be destroyed very easily (and
  • Escalation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:11PM (#12572578)
    This is an escalation targetted against the rest of the world, and will be taken as such.
  • by FriedTurkey ( 761642 ) * on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:12PM (#12572579)
    Nothing will defeat terrorism like billion dollar space weapons!!!

    You never know when Al Qaeda is going to build a rocket.

    Those kids in Explorers [imdb.com] did.
  • by mauriatm ( 531406 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:12PM (#12572593) Homepage
    Remember his speech, now known in history as the "Star Wars" [cnn.com] speech.

    "As we pursue our goal of defensive technologies, we recognize that our allies rely upon our strategic offensive power to deter attacks against them. Their vital interests and ours are inextricably linked. Their safety and ours are one. And no change in technology can or will alter that reality. We must and shall continue to honor our commitments."

    Sad how little has changed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:18PM (#12572639)
    Here Bush goes will go breaking international laws again...

    The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space.

    The treaty's key arms control provisions are in Article IV. States-parties commit not to:

    * Place in orbit around the Earth or other celestial bodies any nuclear weapons or objects carrying WMD.
    * Install WMD on celestial bodies or station WMD in outer space in any other manner.
    * Establish military bases or installations, test "any type of weapons," or conduct military exercises on the moon and other celestial bodies.

    The USA fully signed and ratified the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

    http://www.peaceinspace.com/sp_faq.shtml [peaceinspace.com]
    http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/outerspace.a sp [armscontrol.org]
    (among others)
    • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:33PM (#12572783)
      Here Bush goes will go breaking international laws again...

      This is not to say I support Mr. Bush, but as parent clearly indicates in the rest of his post, the 1967 treaty concerns WMD -- not all weapons. Quoth TFA: "no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction."

      Moreover, the pentagon isn't stupid. Using (or threatening to use) nuclear weapons is not a central aspect of US security at the moment. The main threats come either from dictatorships (think N. Korea) or terrorism. Neither kind of enemy can be deterred with nuclear weapons. They are probably trying to revive SDI [wikipedia.org] (i.e. place energy/kinetic antimissile weapons in space), but they may have plans for space-to-ground weapons that are not WMD.

      • As quoted elsewhere in the comments here:
        Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

        Now, it might not be nuclear, but "force of a small nuclear weapon" sounds to me like it qualifies for the full intent and meaning of a WMD.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:20PM (#12572664)
    If the US of A is the strongest country in the world then it can get away with whatever it wants to do. When, however, other countries finally become strong, they will govern themselves by the current behavior of Uncle Sam. If China becomes the next super power, we will complain bitterly if they behave themselves the way we are behaving now.

    Repudiating treaties will come back to haunt us and it will serve us right. We have a treaty that says space is not supposed to be weaponised. We should honor that treaty. While we're at it how about respecting the human and basic legal rights of the prisoners we are illegally holding without charge and without trial and torturing.

    Me stops rant and goes looking for a stiff drink so I can hold off reality for a while.
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:24PM (#12572697)
    Seriously...are our policy makers blind? I think so and here is why:

    The problem is our open southern border which guys like Osama and the like can exploit fully three yeras after 9/11 and with an elected president "fighting the war on terror".

    The problem is out-sourcing which is eroding our industrial base to the extent that already, about one-third of our defense machinery is foreign made.

    The problem is the lack of competitive leverage that is now known of American workers. This is helping out-sourcing.

    The problem is big business. This is evidenced by the fact that all innovation in important fields is coming from Europe/Asia. Look around your living room and tell me what you see. Where were those electronics made?

    The problem is hypocricy. Consider this: In year one, India and Pakistan must not have nuclear weapons and all efforts are taken to ensure this is the case. In year two, they are our best allies even after testing the same weapons. You know why? It's because we do not have an answer to a nuclear bomb. This bomb once on its way to its destination, it cannot be stopped. That's why we as USA do not want Iran to get this weapon.

    More problems: Cuba/China and so many others. Have a good nite guys.


  • Space Superiority (Score:3, Insightful)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:24PM (#12572701) Journal
    I don't know about you but I read that as a grand "fuck you" to the rest of the world. "We own the entire rest of the universe and we'll blast you to subatomic particles if you try to have a piece..."
  • by ylikone ( 589264 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:27PM (#12572734) Homepage
    they want their star wars plans back.
  • by AxsDeny ( 152142 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:27PM (#12572735) Homepage Journal
    ...regarding NOT militarizing space [globalissues.org]?
  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:33PM (#12572781) Journal
    ...both in Cinemas and in American Congress.

    I guess that's the power of the dark side of the farce.

    • While Ronald Reagan was visualizing the Soviet Union as "The Evil Empire", George W. doesn't have as easy a target to rail against: the vague threat of a terrorism.

      So let's compare it to a movie that did extremely well financially despite a half baked idea behind it. Viola, we have "Star Wars, The Phantom Menace"
  • by SparksMcGee ( 812424 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:50PM (#12572928)
    Much as our allies (and others) raise legitmate objections about the possibility--nay, probability--of an arms race in space following the widescale implementation of space-based weapons, it's important to realize--as the Times article points out--that such a race comes with an absurdly high pricetag. When it comes down to it, America currently has a damn sophisticated ground and air-based weapons systems, with satellities to provide supplemental information, if not attack capability.

    When you think of the cost of putting such systems into orbit, let alone maintaining systems with enormous destructive power (remember what the Hubble and ISS pricetags have been so far?), it's enough to bankrupt many a nation. And of course we also have to ensure that they can't be tampered with by other satellites or massive EM storms like the recent one.

    The point of all this is not to say that space should stay completely demilitarized--much as everyone would like that, the odds are that it's a pipe dream. If the United States decides to play the altruist and refrain on ideological grounds from militarizing space, that's just an invitation for less scrupulous powers like North Korea to try it at a future time. At some point the issue will inevitably come up.

    But this does not necessarily mean that America needs to be proactive in the deployment (though it certainly does in the development) of such systems. The astronomical pricetag and tremendous practical issues associated with any space-based weapons deployment are such that any country attempting it, including hostile countries, could not do so without extensive difficulty and a very long time, and wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being clandestine about it.

    In other words, it is unlikely given America's current military superiority that we need to militarize space at this point. We would likely (for the time being, when anti-missile lasers are not yet practical) have sufficient time to destroy any hostile nation's weapons systems and implement our own--sharing the cost with our allies instead of unliaterally bankrupting ourselves for the sake of pie-in-the-sky showboating. Frankly, now is not the time to start the arms race when we don't have to. Keep space weapons free until such time as we reasonably expect to need space-based weapons (are we really going to need tungsten rods with the kinetic energy of tactical nukes in order to take out guerilla fighters and small terrorist bands? What's the immediate large-scale military threat that requires this sort of tech?).

    We can't kid ourselves that it will never happen, but we can for the time being avoid spending astronomical sums on an unproven system to address a threat that doesn't exist at the expense of international censure. The arms race doesn't need to happen now.

  • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @07:53PM (#12572951)
    Assuming these military industrial complex string pullers get their way, we will probably find ourselves in another version of the Starwars type programs Ronald Reagan tried to push during the 80's. It will for sure cost tens/hundreds of billions of dollars, makes go deeper in debt, and will bring nothing but space war stalemate.
  • No Biggie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tmortn ( 630092 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:00PM (#12573451) Homepage
    1) Like it or not the US no longer holds to the no weapons in space treaty. Bush pulled out of that a couple years ago. So everyone stop whining about Bush breaking international treaties. I don't like him either but at least focus on what he is really doing.

    2) Space is the high ground making it highly strategic. All in all I think the US is better suited to handling the power of being first more than say China. ESA would be a good candidate too but they are pretty damn happy to sit back and let the US handle all the shit jobs and ensuing flak.

    3) Very surprised nobody has put together the other obvious piece in this puzzle with Griffon announcing a major new initiative by NASA to deploy space based nuclear reactors. Lasers in space have to have gigantic sources of power... Solar arrays are not very feasible and they remove darkside firing. Nuclear power will provide both power for weapons and propulsion that does not exist today. At the very least this will bring about serious space based observation platforms. Think AWACS in Geosync over a Theater of operations. One of the military thriller wirters used that for a book a while back... can't remember which one but the title was Silver Tower.

    4) for the gravel in space folks. Granted it can be effective... but I am not sure you grasp just how big an area you are talking about. Also, if you grasp orbital mechanics you will understand anything that is a continual problem (ie remains in orbit) you can match orbits with it to remove danger (small relative differences in velocities) or launch clean up efforts.

    5) For those that think space is silly considering you need ground troops I suggest you read up on what people thought about air power prior to WWII. A single laser system with a good rate of fire, capable of tracking an air target long enough to destroy it will alter the face of war in a way not seen since the introduction of mechanized assault. If it cost 100 billion to develop and 100 billion to launch it would be cheap. Check out the cost of the air force... then consider such a weapon could theoretically render it obsolete. Make it like mounted Calvary taking on tanks.
  • by quakeroatz ( 242632 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:22PM (#12573564) Journal
    Funny were seeing this happen just as the new Star Wars movie comes out.

    1) Dubya sees advance screening of SW6
    2) Dubya demands urgent funding to develop space weapons to protect against Sith invasion.
    3) George Lucas is sent to Guantanamo.
    4) Dubya blows up the moon, certain that it holds enough WMD to wipe out planets in a single burst.
    5) Barbra calls Dubya and tells him it's just a movie.

One good suit is worth a thousand resumes.