Space warfare will figure prominently in U.S.-Soviet arms talks, opening Tuesday in Geneva.
Soviet leaders accuse U.S. President Ronald Reagan of trying to "militarize space"--and the so-called Star Wars system could be the biggest obstacle to the talks' success.
They're the first of their kind since the Soviets walked out 15 months ago protesting U.S. cruise and Pershing 2 missiles.
This time the U.S. has agreed to open Star Wars to negotiation, but Reagan really wants an agreement that will reduce existing levels of nuclear weapons on both sides, not merely set limits on future growth.
And U.S. negotiators want explanations of a wide range of alleged Soviet violations of prior arms agreements.
LOS ANGELES-The dream of a Star Wars space weapons system has been secretly pursued for nearly a decade atop one of the Santa Susana Mountains.
Today, the mountaintop Rockwell International Corp. research site, code-named Sigma Tau, is the closest thing to a Star Wars laser base anywhere in the western world.
But--as defence contractors throughout the U.S. scramble to cash in on some of the $30 billion (U.S.) that President Ronald Reagan wants to spend on Star Wars research in the next five years--the dream remain science fiction.
And Reagan's theory that offsetting U.S. and Soviet space shields will lead to a more stable super power relationship has many detractors.
Some of the president's top officials worry privately that the Soviets--who trail the U.S. in space research--will respond by building more land-based weapons that could penetrate and defeat the Star Wars shield.
In fact, the Soviets have already vowed to do so if the Star Wars plan is not killed. The Pentagon began secretly funding Star Wars research as early as 1976 and is pumping $1.4 billion into it this year alone, out of its regular budget.*
Yet defence contractors who are sharing in the effort admit considerable skepticism about its feasibility.
Allowed to talk publicly for the first time, they admit the military industry lacks engineering ability in many areas crucial to the Star Wars system, officially designated the Strategic Defence Initiative.
And even if the needed equipment can be built, putting into orbit and maintaining it there poses additional challenges of uncharted dimensions.
Here is what is being done:
-At Sigma Tau in California, Rockwell is trying to demonstrate how to build chemical laser machines compact enough to fit inside a space shuttle cargo bay.
The researchers have a long way to go.
Today, Sigma Tau and its support equipment take up several hectares, resembling a small oil refinery rather than a feasible, space-based anti-missile weapon.
-At Rockwell's Rocketdyne division in Los Angeles, researchers are trying to develop a source of electrical power for use in space.
Without an ability to generate very high powers and high currents in space, Star Wars won't work.
Rockwell spokesman Bob Anderson,** whose company spent $50 million on Star Wars research last year, admitted the problem "is very touchy."
-At White Sands, N.M., TRW Corp. is competing with Rockwell in the design of chemical laser systems.
One of TRW's lasers was the first to produce more than a megawatt of light energy. But the Star Wars system requires lasers with about 25 megawatts output.
TRW, which has about $100 million in Star Wars contracts, is also competing with such well-known computer companies as IBM and Honeywell in designing powerful supercomputers needed to control the vast anti-missile system.
TRW vice-president Bob Walquist said such a supercomputer is now "impractical" but, in future, is "within the realm of possibility."
He is less optimistic about the overall Star Wars dream.
He said that until it is studied in more detail, "I sort of go home at night and worry about what you're going to do in all these phases."
-At the government's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, scientists are at work on a $50-million particle-beam accelerator, a potential alternative to lasers.
Instead of sending intense light energy toward a target, they would fire streams of atoms or subatomic particles at nearly the speed of light.
Two government laboratories in New Mexico--Los Alamos and Sandia--are also working on particle-beam technology.
But even less is known about such technology than about lasers.
-At Orlando, Fla., the Martin Marietta Corp. is hoping to win a U.S. Army contract to develop the proposed Star Wars interceptor, a self-propelled rocket armed with a conventional explosive.
The Star Wars interceptor must come within a few metres of a target at ranges and speeds far greater than any weapons ever produced in the U.S.
"That has yet to be demonstrated," said Martin Marietta spokesman Joel Strickland, "and there are people who won't believe it until it is."
Martin Marietta is also trying to build so-called smart projectiles, which could home in on their targets in space.
Joseph Casalese, head of that project for Martin Marietta, admitted the concept has "severe logistics problems."
-At the University of Texas, scientists have developed an electromagnetic rail gun--the prototype of a device which could be used to launch smart projectiles.
The military has put up money to build a rail gun 10 times the size of the existing one. By all accounts, Star Wars remains a multi-billion-dollar dream.
And even if future research proves it feasible, there's no
guarantee the Soviets won't be able to develop weapons to render
(article accompanied by drawing of satellite weapon destroying
(text of March 10, 1985 The
*-I MET ON THREE DIFFERENT OCCASIONS WITH (AMERICAN-BORN) DR. DAVID PARNAS, SELECTED TO REPRESENT CANADA ON THE COMMISSION CREATED TO STUDY THE “FEASIBILITY” OF AN ANTI-NUCLEAR WEAPONS-ARMED MISSILE DEFENSIVE SHIELD.
I DID THIS BECAUSE I ATTENDED A LECTURE HE GAVE IN VANCOUVER ABOUT HIS PART IN THIS STUDY. HE PROVIDED PHOTOGRAPHS AND SLIDES IN HIS PRESENTATION TO EXPLICATE HIS CONCLUSIONS THAT THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THIS GROUP HAD NO CLEAR GOALS IN THEIR RESEARCH, WERE PURSUING OBJECTIVES THAT HE BELIEVED WERE SCIENTIFICALLY UNATTAINABLE, AND PROBABLY WERE MEMBERS OF THIS GROUP SOLELY TO GET THE LUCRATIVE PENTAGON SPENDING GRANTS.
HE HAD HIS AUDIENCE IN STITCHES LAUGHING AS HE POINT-BY-POINT DEMOLISHED THE LOGIC AND SCIENCE OF WHAT THE ’STAR WARS’ PROPONENTS WERE CLAIMING WAS BEING AND COULD BE ACHIEVED. I CONCLUDED THAT IF I WAS A SUPPORTER OF THE ANTI-NUKE SCHEME--WHICH I HAVEN’T BEEN, FROM THE FIRST TIME IT WAS DRAWN TO MY ATTENTION IN 1978...WHEN I BRIEFED THEN-’INTERNATIONAL BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT’ PRESIDENT ROBERT McNAMARA AND THEN-PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA PIERRE E. TRUDEAU ON IT...DR. PARNAS WOULD BE A PERSON WHO WOULD MAKE ME LOOK VERY FOOLISH.
SO, I ARRANGED TO MEET WITH HIM, MENTIONED TO HIM THAT I HAD PREPARED THE AFOREMENTIONED (VERY FIRST) POLICY BRIEFS IN 1978, SUBSTANTIATED MY BASES OF AUTHORITY AT THAT TIME, AND ASKED HIM IF HE WOULD PROVIDE ME WITH COPIES OF HIS SLIDE PRESENTATION DOCUMENTS SO THAT I COULD SEND THEM TO U.S. SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY.
I CORRESPONDED WITH SENATOR KENNEDY ABOUT THE NUCLEAR FREEZE/NUCLEAR ARMS REDUCTIONS AND COMBATTING APARTHEID IN SOUTH AFRICA IN 1978, AND PROMISED AT THAT TIME TO RESUME THE CORRESPONDENCE AFTER HE MADE A PROMISED PERSONAL TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA.
HE DID SO, AND I SENT THE PARNAS DOCUMENTATION AND MORE TO TEDDY KENNEDY VIA 1985 REGISTERED LETTERS TO HIM.
AND AS I EXPLICATED ELSEWHERE ON THIS AWARD-WINNING WEBSITE, I ACTUALLY INADVERTENTLY DREW ATTENTION TO THE COVER STORY FOR OLLIE NORTH’S “IRANGATE” ACTIVITIES IN MY FEBRUARY 7, 1985 REGISTERED LETTER TO TEDDY KENNEDY.
**-THERE ARE MANY STRANGE COINCIDENCES IN REGARDS TO
MY “INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC WORK...ON A DIRECT BASIS” FOR THE WORLD’S CHILDREN AND "(MY) PRESENT SITUATION"--WHICH, OF
COURSE, BEST ILLUSTRATES THE ULTIMATE MANNER IN WHICH THAT WORK
WAS RESPONDED TO SUM AND TOTAL BY THE AUTHORITIES
INVOLVED...PARTICULARLY THOSE CITED IF YOU TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE NAMED GORDON APPOINTED TO DO WORK THAT ADDRESSED ONE FIELD OR ANOTHER AFFECTED BY HOW THIS OVERALL GOAL OF TRYING TO ENSURE THAT "ALL OF US" HAVE SAFE FUTURES WAS RESPONDED TO IN RELATION TO THE 1977-78 DOCUMENTATION HAS ALWAYS STRUCK ME AS, LET'S JUST SAY...OUT OF PROPORTION TO THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN NORTH AMERICA NAMED GORDON.
BUT IN THIS CASE, LIKELY NOT PART OF THIS AMAZING SET OF "COINCIDENCES," I WOULD MENTION HERE THAT THE NAME OF THE FRIEND WHO WAS DRIVING THE CAR I WAS IN ON THE NIGHT OF THE 1972 CAR ACCIDENT THAT KILLED HIM AND PERMANENTLY DISABLED MY LEFT ARM WAS...BOB ANDERSON.
DON'T THINK THE WISDOM OF THOMAS JEFFERSON IS PASSÉ YET IN WHAT YOU ARE ENTITLED TO FROM YOUR GOVERNMENT? LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD: TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE TO SIGN MY GUESTBOOK.
TAKE YOUR NEXT FOOTSTEP HERE.