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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 @08:00PM (#12572475) Homepage
    Based on the fact that a 82-billion-dollar emergency budget for military operations [] 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.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:06PM (#12572535) Homepage Journal
    I mean, why bother publishing the request. Any thinking adult already understands the situation. If anything the request is nothing more than "going through the motions".

    Why it is newsworthy is beyond me? Perhaps to say "Hey we really really really don't have these things yet" Or perhaps it is too alert the not so bright that yeah, someone is bound to do it so lets make sure we are there and ready.

    In a perfect world this type of waste would not be needed, unfortunately a few nutjobs out there are trying to get nuclear weapons or have them and they have very few moral reasons to not use them except self preservation. With the current idiocy of allowing Iran to become a fully fledged nuclear power just how long before they try to become a spaceborne power?

    I don't think the Chinese would tell anyone either until after they threaten to use such capability on Taiwan.

    As for the UN, I figure on some good old bashing of America for doing something that so obviously is going to be done by anyone who can lob it up there.

    Hell now that I think of it it almost seems as if it were bait.
  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:09PM (#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 [].

    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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:09PM (#12572554)
    If you look at the upcoming global landscape, China looks to be number potential enemy. They are already working on a space program that will only getter better, and more advanced.

    Right now, the US undisputablly has the technogical superiority over the rest of the world. It's high time we develop a space strategy while we still have the edge. Right now, there are no enemies that can attack from space, but you never know in 20 years or so.

    It's time to get the ball rolling. Reagan had it right with Star Wars, and he only helped bankrupt the Soviet Union by funding it. I hope Bush follows in Reagan's footsteps.

  • defence? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:10PM (#12572568)
    So how exactly does spending billions of dollers on weapons in space help defend america.
    Sure it will defend against missile attack but suitecase bombs and various other things are
    more apparent problems.
    Seeing America getting them more and more into debt, without any real sign of stopping, and
    arming themself up even further is very disturbing.
    Ok maybe I need to find my tinfoil hat but this seems to look even more like getting
    armed to the teeth for a land grab, how else they going to get the money.
  • Imagine This ... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:11PM (#12572576)
    Someone, could be anyone -- N. Korea, a group of Islamists in a remote region in the former Soviet Union, whatever, you decide -- launches a missile at the United States.

    Presently, there's very little we could do about it. We'd basically just sit and watch helplessly as the missile tracked onto our soil and exploded.

    With space-based weapons, we could at least have a chance to prevent it.

    Having a reasonable space-based defense just makes sense. The only alternative is to promise Mutual Assured Destruction to anyone who'd launch something like that at us -- and that only works if the one who's doing the launching is rational, and isn't more than willing to die.

  • by nbert ( 785663 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:14PM (#12572602) Homepage Journal
    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...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:20PM (#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 @08:24PM (#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.


  • Re:Space Superiority (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Wandering-Seraph ( 878056 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:31PM (#12572771)
    Ironic, isn't it, when our Space Program is slowly falling apart? Three shuttles left...if one of them disappears, no more manned rockets. Why, again, are we claiming what we aren't using or going to be using?

    On the other hand a giant laser beam cutting through our atmosphere and slicing up countries does sound amazing...probably best if it were left to comic books and movies.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @08:36PM (#12572808) Homepage
    It depends on your definition of "militarize" - I'd describe the German creation of the V2 a lot more toward "space militarization" than cosmonauts carrying pistols that would mean their lives if they fired it inside their capsules.

    It's kind of funny, but I'm actually Machiavelianly cheering this initiative on, despite being somewhat of a pacifist, because it will take money from other military programs and put them toward developing space technology instead, and at the same time help push other powers (Europe, China, etc) to improve their space tech and reduce any reservations they have about taking more diplomatically/economically forceful measures to stop the US from violating widespread international public opinion.

    It's sort of like I'm cheering on the bill to ban women from serving in combat zones despite being a feminist because it'll make it even harder for the military to meet its quotas and thus hasten our exit from Iraq (and because it wouldn't last half a year in almost any future Democrat-dominated government).
  • the only reason the shuttle costs so much to yse is because of the damn military interfering demanding such a large payload capacity.

    Right reason, wrong fall guy. It was actually Nixon who demanded that NASA and the military work together to produce a singular craft. He wanted to "save money" by reducing the number of space vehicles. Both sides (NASA and the USAF) were pretty unhappy with the arrangement but couldn't do much about it. Thus we have an expensive spacecraft that can *almost* put military craft into orbit, has an extensive cross range ability, and has sufficient life support to carry a full crew for over a month.

    FWIW, if the military develops Nuclear Thermal Rockets or Orion Nuclear Pulse craft, then I'm all for militarization. Maybe they can push things through where NASA can't. :-)
  • A safe distance?: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr_tenor ( 310787 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:08PM (#12573074)

    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.

    There is much written about the effect that not having to fight a war face to face with the risk of great loss of life on your own part has on the way a society perceives war.

    Additionally, are you okay with countries that perceive the US as the enemy sending suicide bombers or missles or biological weapons over to the US from a safe distance?

  • by Ioldanach ( 88584 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:20PM (#12573173)
    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 globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @09:57PM (#12573427) Journal
    Parent sounds like a hippie to me...

    You however, say the military is just part of a natural evolution of technology. You are only half right. Some new technologies have been developed by the military first, like the internet. There are also many other inventions/technologies that were the product of a small group of inventors powered human flight.

    The military's track record with developing new technologies is mixed at best.

    As far as the best way to explore space? It has to be a partnership of industry (not necessarily corporations per se), national space agencies (NASA, etc.), private investors, and the military if absolutely necessary. Just like America was "developed". It might not be perfect but it's the best idea yet.
  • by eljasbo ( 671696 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:00PM (#12573449)
    It seems that most of the revolutionary technology was first developed by the military and then released to the private sector to benefit mankind. Look at nuclear power, computer systems, the Internet, and GPS as just some examples at the top of my head. Although the military will initially benefit, the entire world will benefit in the end from this. The military may develop some cool new technology such as a new propulsion system or a new satellite technology, and that technology will eventually trickle down for others to use as well for non-military uses.
  • by charyou-tree ( 774046 ) <charyou-tree AT nym DOT hush DOT com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:10PM (#12573497)
    If we're talking about arms in space, what's to stop [insert nuclear-capable country here] from declaring that their airspace extends above geostationary orbit levels, and that any transgression thereof will result in terrestrial nuclear retaliation?

    The fact that US strategic doctrine has been consistent and unchanged for 6 decades: any nation that uses WMD against us will be immediately and completely destroyed by our own nuclear weapons. No "measured response" ... no surgical strikes ... no economic sanctions ... no speeches at the UN ... just immediate and total annihilation.

    The US is waning as a global superpower. Get over it.

    No. Take a close look at our defense budget, and compare it to every other nation in the world. Then take a closer look at how much of that budget is R&D and compare that to every other nation's R&D. If anything, the gap between the US and every other nation in the world is widening.

    Yes, we have issues with a huge budget deficit and growing national debt - but on the whole, our debt is manageable, our economy is strong, and our military is unparalleled. The term 'hyperpower' was coined for a reason.

    Get over it.
  • by collectivescott ( 885118 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:29PM (#12573624)
    Having read the responses thusfar, I'm dismayed at the lack of relevant science-knowledgeable responses. I just got back from a conference put on by the Nuclear Policy Research Institute [] on this very topic - what the military is calling "Full Spectrum Dominance" - the ability to attack in, from, and through space, and achieve control of outer space.

    Moral arguements aside, (although I do believe they are relevant when people are dying of hunger, et cetera,) space simply cannot be controlled. It is not a teritory that can be occupied like a country can, and there are several basic reasons for this.

    First off, weapons placed in space cannot be hidden, so they sit in plain view of everyone. As an extension of this, they can also be tracked easily because they follow simple orbits, and thinking forward, this makes the weapons themselves vulnerable to attack. The United States and Russia have both already demonstrated effective precision anti-satellite capabilities, but a simpler approach would be to simply explode a nuclear weapon relatively nearby - something any major nuclear power could already do. Of course, a nuclear blast would damage other satellites as well, and not only directly. The destruction of satellites would create a huge amount of space debris, already a significant problem. In fact, intentionally launching debris would be another basic anti-satellite technique.

    The United States has the most to lose - it already has the largest world share of satellite-based commerce, its military relies on satellites to function more than any other military. By shifting battle into outer space, the U.S. is effectively threatening its own interests.

    Also, anti-satellite weapons cost orders of magnitude less than outer space weapons in terms of cost to develop or deploy, meaning there is no strategic advantage to being the first country to deploy space weapons. In fact, by deploying such weapons first, the United States may end up committing itself to an asymmetrical arms race in an attempt to protect its space assets - especially asymmetrical because of the prohibitive cost of space launches. Finally, you have to examine the motivation for space weaponization. The U.S. military is already by far the dominant world force. No other country in the world is currently undertaking serious research to weaponize space. Russia has unilaterally pledged not to be the first country to weaponize space and China is considering such a declaration itself. The allocation of money is not neutral, it must come from somewhere. This means either a decrease in other military forces or in domestic programs. Space weaponization is a waste of money, does nothing to solve current problems, and may very well create new international tensions, something that both the Russian and Chinese ambassadors have made quite clear.

  • Weapons research is fine. It's just making sure the right weapons are in the hands of only the right people.
  • Re:You obviously.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 ) <koiulpoi AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:49PM (#12573765)
    Because the entire senate obviously reads every single bill all the way through. Because that would get things done faster. End sarcasm. Did the homeland security (or whatever) committie read it? I bet they did. Also, it takes two chambers of congrss to pass a law. How come nobody ever screams about how the House didn't read it? Because asking 435 lawmakers to each read a several hundred page document and understand it in depth might be too much? Considering their rationale was "Get this passed now, we need this today."? How come the Senate (or the house) read and understand that recent bill including RealID?

    Disclaimer: I dispise the patriot act and the rationale behind it. I also think our system of lawmaking is broken.
  • by TitanBL ( 637189 ) <brandon@tPERIODi ... .com minus punct> on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @10:56PM (#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 Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @11:20PM (#12573954)
    The military is the only government agency that the general populace will allow to be funded without explicit consent or debate. It then decides, in absence of public opinion, which technologies are most beneficial for the offense and defense of the US. The military simply does not care if technology becomes successful in private industry or not.

    Everyone's track record with developing new technology is mixed at best. There is in fact, no significant advantage to any single method. Single inventors, private companies and the military (read: the functional arm of the government) are all pretty random when it comes to new stuff.

    NASA has been struggling for about 20 years because it's led by a bureacracy that lost its unity after the moon landing. Corporations and investors don't see near and clear results, and governments historically do not work well together. The military is the ONLY group that really sees practical benefit from space, which makes them the most likely to seriously produce results from it.

    I say let them have at it. At least we can be sure military funding will employ US engineers and not be outsourced!
  • Follow Up from MSNBC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Wandering-Seraph ( 878056 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @11:20PM (#12573959) []

    Article describes how they want to simply protect Satellites, while also revealing the counter-point regarding how this could turn into a Space Weapon race.

    Concerns such as:

    Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said, "This is a military system that is unnecessary and provocative. It will lead other states to pursue military systems to knock out our space-based assets. The rationale of this program is to defend those assets. But this will have the reverse effect." Kimball said any move by the United States to start developing and testing space-based weapons will be met with very strong international condemnation, from foes and allies alike.
  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2005 @11:45PM (#12574136) Journal
    No no that's backwards. Space is far away, really big, nothing lives there, there's nothing even interesting for millions of miles in almost every direction, and we're shielded from bad things in space by a thick atmosphere (for radiation) and a magnetic bottle (for charged particles).

    Weaponizing space is a great idea. Weaponizing Earth is the questionable one.
  • by sugar and acid ( 88555 ) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @12:25AM (#12574435)
    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 compromises in international affairs.
  • by birge ( 866103 ) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @12:46AM (#12574561) Homepage
    Or they might not - hasn't this been the excuse for ever more destructive weapons since time immemorial 'they'll save more lives than they destroy'? It has never turned out to be true. The aim of war is never minimal loss of lives to both sides.

    Oh, for christ's sake, if you're going to make shit up at least make up stuff that's hard to refute. Despite all the handwringing about Iraq, the entire war still hasn't resulted in total American casualties equal to one day of WWII. And if you make the more difficult estimate of civilian and enemy deaths, I'm still willing to bet the total still isn't up to one good day of carpet bombing in WWII. You can argue war is always too much, but you can't argue that there's no interest in the military on sparing lives. They spend huge amounts of their budget using smart weapons when the same job could be done for a tenth of the cost if they didn't care about collateral damage.

    The agressive militarisation of a domain which all space-capable countries have explicitly agreed not to militarise is an insane, hubristic waste of money which will backfire when China, Europe, India et al decide they can't tolerate a US with space weapons and start to arm their satellites.

    You're right, it is arrogant. Let's not have to be the first anymore. Let's wait until China develops military satellites before we start thinking about this. That way, the Europeans will think better of us, and we'll have that nice feeling of moral superiority. And that's what's important. Do you really think China gives a shit about anything we could get them to sign? Do you really think their efforts at human space flight have been anything other than military R&D?

    The US has no need of a bigger, better, weapon - they already spend more on weapons than any other nation

    True. So maybe our military really is sincere about wanting more precise weapons. It certainly makes more sense than the cynical conspiracy theories around here.

  • by dangil ( 167785 ) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @02:27AM (#12574937)
  • Re:Imagine This ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @03:40AM (#12575172) Journal
    What I'm more interested in, is, how many of them are already planted thorough major cities of the US, sealed under a layer of concrete in basements of skyscrappers, plugged into phone lines, just waiting for a call and detonation code. Paranoia? But that's very probable. Why smuggle them in during unrest, when all transports are carefully monitored, if you can do so during peace - instead of planting them in the orbit or in bunkers and have them delivered during the last minutes, deliver them now, then just detonate. Cheap, easy, reliable. In case of unrest and risk of having the lines cut off, start "dead hand" trigger - call in once a day with unique code to -prevent- detonation.

    Think about it - every phone booth can be your military headquarters from which you can destroy whole country. And sure, they can detect the origin of the radioactives. Say, Soviet Union, some of the lost warheads. Or one of reactors in the US.
  • Re:Too late (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jadel ( 746203 ) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:21AM (#12575542)
    The Almaz [] station was flown with an onboard 23mm aircraft cannon.
    Vladimir Chelomei's Almaz OPS was the only manned military space station ever actually flown. The stations were equipped with an unprecedented array of sensors for 'man-in-the-loop' observation and targeting of mobile ground targets. One was equipped with a space-to-space gun. In the end the station officially proved that manned systems were not a cost-effective method for space reconnaissance and targeting. But the Almaz station provided the basis for the Russian Salyut, Mir, and the International Space Station space station modules.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.