United Press International: Think tanks wrap-up III
(scroll down to first entry from “The Institute for Public Accuracy”)
Quotes from some luddite luminaries on Sean O’Keefe’s recent address to the National Press Club:
– Alice Slater, director of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment:
“NASA’s strategic plan involves the acceleration of militarizing space. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers was head of U.S. Space Command when it published its 1998 ‘Visions for 2020′ report which talked of ‘dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment.’ In January 2001 the space commission chaired by Donald Rumsfeld affirmed the same vision — to dominate the globe from the high ground of space — with the official imprimatur of an incoming secretary of Defense … It’s particularly troubling that this strategic plan is being announced only days before the convening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva … The United States is sabotaging global disarmament. Hopes for meaningful progress towards nuclear disarmament have been shattered, particularly by the shameless grab to dominate space.”
Sorry, Alice, but you’re deliberately conflating dominance (of space, as a battlefield) with domination (of the globe, as a subject territory). The goal is to develop technologies and hardware that will prevent others from using space to threaten us or our allies.
And “sabotaging global disarmament”? You have got to be kidding. First off, global disarmament is a naive, utopian fantasy. There is nothing to sabotage, because none of the participants in disarmament conferences actually intend to disarm. Second…umm…have you been watching the news lately, Alice? Seems to me Messrs. Rumsfeld and Myers have accomplished more disarmament in the past three weeks than disarmament idealists have accomplished with a half-century of conferences.
– Bruce Gagnon, director of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space:
“Immediately after his appointment by George W. Bush, O’Keefe told the nation that all of NASA’s missions in the future would be ‘dual use.’ This of course means that the distinction between civilian and military technologies will be rubbed out. The military takeover of the space program is near complete.”
GOOD. Joined at the hip with DoD, NASA might finally become results-oriented and accomplish something, anything, within a reasonable amount of time. Who knows…maybe the agency will even bring its financial discipline up to Pentagon standards?
– Karl Grossman, a professor at the State University of New York, is author of “The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet”:
“At all of our peril, O’Keefe is moving to expand NASA’s program of using nuclear power in space — including reviving the decades-old notion of building nuclear-powered spacecraft. What if the Columbia shuttle had been nuclear-powered? Nuclear debris would have spread over Texas and Louisiana. Still, two days after the Columbia tragedy, NASA advanced its new $3 billion space nuclear program, Project Prometheus. It is being pushed despite the development of new safe space energy systems, including solar-electric propulsion and solar sails.”
What if? Large chunks of Columbia (including tires, flammable fuel tanks, middeck racks, etc.) survived the breakup intact, despite not having been designed for such a contingency. To its credit, NASA goes to great lengths to encapsulate what nuclear material it does send into space in such a way as to preclude its release into the environment in the event of an accident. Had a reactor been aboard Columbia it would have survived intact.
The real point of opposing nuclear power in space is not that we shouldn’t be using it to explore (in person) and settle the solar system, but that we shouldn’t be exploring and settling the solar system in the first place. Nuclear power is required for lunar and planetary settlement and for exploration of the outer planets, because solar power is too diffuse and/or unreliable to be of use. By banning the use of nuclear power in space, they would prevent meaningful human activity beyond LEO. Offering solar power as alternative is simply a fig-leaf, as they know full well that it isn’t up to the task. Of course, perhaps this isn’t the covert goal and I’m reading ill-intent where there is none, but the end result would be the same regardless of their motivations. Without nuclear power in space, we will not leave LEO in any meaningful way.