Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Lunatics

CBC reports that Japan's space agency, JAXA, has announced plans to send robotic explorers to the Moon by 2015, to be followed by a permanent, manned lunar station by 2025. Like China, Japan's long-term plan also includes a proposal to develop reusable vehicles like the space shuttle, but Japan is still well behind. China launched its first manned spaceflight in 2003, while Japan has yet to do so. China also announced plans last year for an unmanned lunar satellite by 2007, and robotic lunar vehicles by 2010, leading up to a Chinese "taikonaut" Moon landing by 2020. Meanwhile, NASA plans to put robotic vehicles on the Moon by 2008 and to return Americans to the Moon by 2020--a date Bush announced mere weeks after China's announcement of the 2020 date.

Why the new Moon race? Alas, the answer may be simple: the world is an increasingly bellicose place, and at least for the next few decades, the Moon is the ultimate high ground. The military side of the race is not being advertised, but the clues are not hard to find. For example, CBC notes that, "In a break from its peaceful space policy, Japan began launching spy satellites in 2003." Also, when Prime Minister Martin formally rejected joining the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program last week, CBC noted that, "he insisted he would not sign a deal that put weapons in space." A curious remark, since the BMD program is supposed to be land-based. Indeed, last year, the venerable Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) called Bush's lunar proposals a "trojan horse." They argued that a Moon base was a poor choice as a stepping stone for a manned Mars mission (its stated goal)--but it would make for a fine military base. (The International Space Station, which we are abandoning, would be much more useful as a stepping stone.)

Some of the new kids on the block are interested in Space as well. A few weeks ago, Iran announced that they had reached an agreement with Russia for the first Iranian communications satellite ("Zohre" or "Venus") to be built and launched. A press release from TASS and Iran's News agency IRNA announces that, "The purpose of the first Iranian satellite will be purely civil," but at the end of the release, they note that "Tehran intends to place a second similar order with Russia within a year." The purpose of this second Iranian satellite is not specified. Iran also mentioned another satellite deal to launch a "multi-purpose" small satellite in 2006, "in close collaboration with China and Thailand." Hmm...

Want to see where proliferation is headed? No need to strain for a glimpse over the fences in North Korea. Just look up.

3 comments:

Raised By Republicans said...

Military bases on the moon? Well I suppose it would cut down on the "collateral damage."

But seriously, out of curiousity, what would the military value of a moon base be? The Apollo missions took days to fly to the moon by Saturn V rocket. Would a missile fly the distance much faster? It seems to me that a satelite platform in near Earth orbit would have more military value.

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR: you are correct that a satellite platform in low Earth orbit would be of more military value when it comes to projecting force around the globe. The purpose of a lunar base, however would be to project force in Space (specifically, cislunar Space--the Space between the Earth and the Moon's orbit--and isn't that a great adjective?)

The ability to project U.S. military force in Space is now national policy. On January 11, 2001, the bipartisan Commission to Assess U.S. National Security Space Management and Organization, headed by Rumsfeld (before he was SecDef) released its final report. Here's an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

"we know from history that every medium—air, land and sea—has seen conflict. Reality indicates that space will be no different. Given this virtual certainty, the U.S. must develop the means both to deter and to defend against hostile acts in and from space. This will require superior space capabilities [...] In the coming period, the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its national interests both on the earth and in space [...] The Commissioners appreciate the sensitivity that surrounds the notion of weapons in space for offensive or defensive purposes. They also believe, however, that to ignore the issue would be a disservice to the nation. The Commissioners believe the U.S. Government should vigorously pursue the capabilities called for in the National Space Policy to ensure that the President will have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to and, if necessary, defend against attacks on U.S. interests."

As a direct result of this report, the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) was upgraded to a separate 4-star command in April 2002 and now lists "Space Control" among its four main missions. Their mission statement explains: "Space Control, which can sometimes be referred to as space superiority, may include denying an enemy use of space assets."

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