Friday, October 31, 2008

Weapons in Space? They're Already There

Barack Obama has promised (among a few other things) that he will not weaponize space. The problem with this promise is one of definitions. Right now, when people worry about military activity in space, they seem to be concerned mostly with area-denial tactics, i.e. we will disable your critical satellite networks. As STRATCOM commander General Kevin Chilton points out, however, by that standard the US space shuttle fleet qualifies as a space weapon. For that matter, remember the stumbling satellite the US Navy blew up a while back in order to prevent it from potentially crashing in a populated area? Things falling from space have a lot of energy. Every point on Earth's surface is located at the business end of a very powerful gun, courtesy of gravity. From that high up, all you've got to do is throw rocks, which Earth learned the hard way in Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Few people other than sci-fi writers seem to acknowledge, however, how incredibly strategic space is, so a president Obama would probably be able to keep his promise. The thing is, how many other countries will respect the same ideal? The Chinese, among others, have known for a little while the importance of holding the high ground.

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