Undercover: Deep Inside a Spacefighters' Conference
On April 28, I bought a $ 50 ticket to the 36th Space Congress: Countdown to the Millennium, held at Cape Canaveral. The meeting was sponsored by NASA, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and the Air Force.
Brig. Gen. Randy Starbuck, Commander of the 45th Space Wing, chaired a three-day plenary session called "Military Space for a New Century." Starbuck reminded the 300-400 people in attendance to stick their heads outside on April 30 to see the exciting Titan VI launch of a secret Milstar satellite. [It was exciting, all right. The satellite was destroyed when the Titan exploded--the third Titan explosion in a row. The cost to US taxpayers: $ 3 billion.--Ed.]
Starbuck and two other USAF officers unveiled their "Vision for 2050" which called for the "full exploitation of space" using the resources of the "military, aerospace corporations, national labs and academia." Only 9 percent of the total USAF budget now goes for military space programs. Starbuck hopes to push the number to 20 percent.
Col. Tom Clark complained that certain "policies and treaties" stood in the way of the Vision and suggested that "some treaties may need to be renegotiated." Although such matters are supposed to be decided by Congress and the President, Clark revealed the "politically sensitive" information that Anti-Satellite "Star Wars" weaponry "would be ready by around 2008."
Because of the huge cost for such a project, Clark said it would be necessary to create "an event to drive the public to support ASAT [Anti-Satellite] deployment. But it will happen. We are now talking planning, doing research and development. Someone will attack one of our systems."
Referring to the "defensive" Ballistic Missile Defense system recently approved by Congress, Clark assured the crowd that it was "obvious that dual use is clear"--i.e., "defensive" space lasers can also be used offensively.
The space warfighters, as they constantly call themselves, reminded us that the US now has 26 ground-based space surveillance stations--"down link" facilities--spread all over the planet, that receive satellite data and send it directly to the US Space Command HQ in Colorado.
Micro-satellites, 50-pound multi-mission satellites capable of changing orbits, are expected to be launched in 2000. They would help to refuel space-based lasers and could be used along with the new International Space Station.
Some in Congress have called for the creation of a separate "space force" but Starbuck said the USAF was opposed to the idea. The Air Force views space as seamless--air and space go together, not be divided. Starbuck suggested the USAF should become the "Aerospace Force."
In the second plenary, I was able to get two of my written questions answered. My second one was: "How can we ensure that the bad seed of war, greed and environmental degradation not be taken with us as we move into space?" I smiled with glee as I listened to the chorus of groans from around the big meeting room filled with military personnel and aerospace executives.
David Gump, President of Luna Corporation, responded: "First, about the environmental degradation. You can't hurt the moon and asteroids because they are already dead." Luna Corp. is now planning to put a nuclear-powered rover on the moon to search for water and minerals.
Gump concluded by stating: "Greed? I'm in favor of greed." The audience laughed. Gump didn't say anything about the war part of the question. Maybe he is still thinking about that bad seed.
Bruce Gagnon is the director of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space [PO Box 90083, Gainesville, FL 32607].
© Earth Island Journal, spring 2000 issue