Carolyn Coe’s OpEd is published today in the Weekly Packet, and follows here.
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Editorial: Militarizing Space Is a Bad Idea
As a child, space exploration sounded exciting. How cool to see human beings floating in space! And at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, my brother and I got to try space ice cream. It wasn’t tasty, but I didn’t care because I had just eaten what the astronauts had, and I considered them to be some of the world’s great explorers, like deep ocean divers and high-altitude mountaineers.
As a child, I didn’t consider what might be lost or who might be harmed by the US space program. But when the Reagan Administration advanced the idea of having orbiting nuclear reactors powering US weapons from space, that idea sounded dangerous. I could imagine radioactive waste raining down on Earth from war-damaged reactors. The space-based “missile shield” plan was also very expensive and technologically flawed.
The Trump Administration has now revisited the Star Wars plan and intends to establish a “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the US military. And this year the US Congress voted to start building space-based interceptors. Militarizing space is a bad idea.
According to a web post by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), space-based missile defense is “enormously expensive, easily defeated, and fundamentally destabilizing. It creates new problems without solving existing ones.” The UCS offers nonpartisan expertise on nuclear weapons issues, and they estimate that deploying even a modest 600 weapons interceptors in space would cost US taxpayers $300 billion, or half the current US military budget. Furthermore, these interceptors could be shot down with anti-satellite short or medium-range missiles, rendering this costly space-based missile system useless. Simply deploying these weapons in space would likely increase tensions between the US and other nations, and it could set off an arms race.
Who would benefit from militarization of space? The Pentagon and military aerospace firms like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Who wouldn’t benefit? The children of the US. For the Pentagon budget to swell another 50%, the US government would need to slash spending to other programs. Would it be to public schools? And to school lunch programs? And to student grants to attend college? What about funding to help mitigate climate change? Or to provide a social safety net to the sick or homeless, to those most vulnerable in our society?
What do we want for our children?
Russia, China, and Canada have been promoting the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) Treaty. Why not the US?
On Friday, October 12, as part of a global week of action calling for Space for Peace, some of us will stand on the Blue Hill Bridge from 4:30-5:30. Join us. For more information about this and other actions worldwide, visit Space4Peace.org.