Reaching for the High Frontier
The American Pro-Space Movement
by Michael A. G. Michaud
Copyright 1986 by Praeger Publishers and reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, CT. Read complete book here or buy from Amazon.
Chapter 11: Eagles and Doves
Many space advocates have seen space as a "clean slate," an area from which earth-bound political and military rivalries could be excluded. "The crossing of space — even though only a handful of men take part in it," wrote Arthur C. Clarke in 1968, "may do much to reduce the tensions of our age by turning men's minds outward and away from their tribal conflicts."
Despite this idealistic view, military interests have played a major role in space policy and space activity in both the United States and the Soviet Union since the beginning of the Space Age. The launch vehicles that put the first men and machines into space were designed as or adapted from military missiles. Space has been "militarized" for a generation, in the sense that some satellites have been used for military purposes. For the first two decades of the Space Age, however, the military uses of space by the United States were confined essentially to unmanned satellites that observed the Earth, gathered information, and relayed communications.
In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, military activity in space became an increasingly visible public policy issue in the United States because of a confluence of events, including a new space capability (the Space Shuttle), the maturing of anti-satellite and anti-missile weapons development programs started earlier, rising concern about Soviet military capabilities, and the arrival in 1981 of an administration more ready to speak out on the military uses of space technologies.
Although these were essentially defense and arms control issues, space advocates played interesting roles in advancing or opposing space-related defense concepts. By 1983, the question of weapons based in space or directed against objects in space had become the single most divisive issue for the American pro-space movement. It also held the potential of altering public attitudes toward the entire U.S. space enterprise.
In The Spaceflight Revolution, William S. Bainbridge described how some early advocates of spaceflight, particularly in Germany, took a "military detour" to speed up the coming of the Space Age. "If Von Braun had not succeeded in building the V-2 rocket for Hitler," wrote Bainbridge, "the Spaceflight Revolution would probably have failed."
Since the 1950s, some American advocates of spaceflight have supported increased military activity in space. In some cases, this was done out of genuine conviction that defense functions could be performed more efficiently with space systems. In others, it was because defense arguments gave added leverage to those seeking to expand human activity in space. The military detour has remained tempting, particularly in times of reduced political and public support for spaceflight.
The creation of NASA in 1958, and the Moon landing program, may have forestalled a military detour by many American advocates of spaceflight. By the late 1970s, however, frustration with the unwillingness of the Ford and Carter administrations to enunciate new space goals or to approve major new civil space programs led some American space advocates to consider a new military detour. This coincided with growing interest in the potential of defensive space systems and with a campaign within the U.S. Air Force by space advocates who wanted a separate Space Command.
The question of military activity in space was given a higher public profile in the early 1980s for a variety of reasons. By far the most important was a paradigm shift as bold as that of Gerard K. O'Neill's space colonies: the Reagan administration's endorsement of the concept of using weapons systems in space as a possible means to defend against ballistic missiles. This was done primarily for defense reasons, but space advocates were very much involved, with some seeing this as a means of speeding space development and space humanization.
Early in the Space Age, some argued that space offered a new military high ground. Wernher von Braun, transplanted to the United States, was arguing as early as 1952 that an orbiting station equipped with nuclear missiles would allow the United States to dominate the Earth. In the 1960s, American space visionary Dandridge M. Cole described his "Panama theory," in which control over certain positions in space (such as geosynchronous orbit) would give a nation a decisive military advantage. Cole also suggested that a captured planetoid in orbit around the Earth could be the ultimate deterrent. In his 1970 book War and Space, aerospace engineer Robert Salkeld proposed that the United States should deploy strategic weapons, and their command centers, in space to solve the then foreseeable problem of land-based missiles becoming vulnerable to preemptive attack. (During the 1960s, the Soviet Union actually tested a nuclear Fractional Orbital Bombardment System that, in wartime, would complete most of an orbit around the Earth before descending on its target.)
The U.S. Air Force has long contained a school of thought that argues that space is a new operational medium with unique characteristics, requiring a separate doctrine and a separate command structure, and possibly the creation of a U.S. Space Force. The resistance these arguments have met remind many of the early resistance to the idea of a separate Air Force with its own doctrine.
Early in the Space Age, the Air Force had plans for an aerospace plane called the X-20 Dyna-Soar, to be launched into orbit atop a large rocket to perform military missions. There also were plans for a military space station called the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). One of the military astronauts chosen for the mission was James Abrahamson, who later headed the Space Shuttle program and the office responsible for the Strategic Defense Initiative. However, both projects were cancelled and were succeeded indirectly by NASA systems: the temporary civilian space station Skylab and the joint civil-military Space Shuttle. As of 1984, the Defense Department was disclaiming any interest in a space station, but the aerospace press was carrying stories about military interest in a possible "Trans-Atmospheric Vehicle."
In April 1981, as the Space Shuttle was about to fly its first mission, the United States Air Force Academy hosted a symposium on military space doctrine. This event was a response to a challenge hurled by then Secretary of the Air Force Hans Mark when he visited the academy in January 1980. Thomas Karas, who reported on the symposium in his book The New High Ground, saw it as an important symbolic moment for Air Force space advocates led by General Bernard Schriever (USAF, retired). That same year, Colorado Congressman Ken Kramer introduced a bill calling for a U.S. Aerospace Force. In September 1982, under the more receptive Reagan administration, advocates won the creation of a USAF Space Command, which is located at Colorado Springs.
A Consolidated Space Operations Center, which also will be located at Colorado Springs, is scheduled to become operational in 1986. In late 1984, President Reagan decided to form a combined, multiservice Space Command (also located in Colorado Springs), which was to be operational by October 1, 1985.
In the early 1980s there was growing media concern about the alleged "militarization" of NASA. Because the Shuttle is used both for civil and military missions, its introduction has to some extent blurred the longstanding separation between civil and military space systems. "The Shuttle is bringing high visibility to the military role in space," said a senior NASA official in 1982. The first all-military Space Shuttle mission took place in January 1985, amid controversy about press stories concerning the satellite it was to place in orbit. Meanwhile, a new Space Shuttle facility has been under construction at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast to allow launches into polar orbits, with the first Shuttle launch planned for 1986. By the late 1980s, the United States should have well-developed organizational structures and physical facilities for expanded military operations in space.
The Shifting Balance
When most Americans thought of space in the 1960s, they thought of the civilian space program, which then was not only more visible but much larger in budgetary terms; military space spending never approached a comparable peak. Trends began to change during the Carter administration in the late 1970s, when defense spending turned upward while NASA funding stayed approximately level in real terms. The trend lines crossed in fiscal year 1982; for the first time since 1961, the United States officially spent more on its defense space programs than on NASA (Figure 11.1 [not included due to copyright]). All reports in the open literature suggest that the gap has continued to widen since, a factor in stimulating the debate about military activity in space.
The Anti Satellite Question: A Little Noticed Issue
For most of the groups that made up the post-1972 American space interest movement, military activity in space was not a front-burner issue until after the arrival of the Reagan administration in January 1981. Yet Paul Stares reports in his book The Militarization of Space that the United States tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon as early as 1958, and President Johnson announced in 1964 that the United States had the means to destroy satellites. The Soviet Union reportedly began testing an ASAT system in 1967.
Generally, the subject received little attention in the media until late 1975, when press reports claimed that the Soviet Union might have illuminated U.S. satellites with a ground-based laser. (According to some reports, the United States also was doing research on the possible use of lasers as anti-satellite weapons.) In 1976, the Soviet Union resumed testing of an ASAT system of the "co-orbital" variety, designed to place an explosive warhead in an orbit that would bring it near the target satellite. This caused some alarm in Washington.
In October 1977, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown called the Soviet ASAT system "operational." Following up on one of the last decisions of the Ford administration, the Carter administration decided to move forward on two tracks: the United States would propose discussions with the Soviet Union on possible ASAT arms control measures but would proceed with the development of its own ASAT system. The American ASAT was an aircraft-launched, direct ascent system, whose small nonexplosive warhead would seek out and crash into the target. Reportedly, this Homing Intercept Technology (HIT) was originally developed for an anti-ballistic missile system.
U.S. and Soviet delegations first met to discuss ASAT arms control in Helsinki in June 1978, with subsequent meetings in Bern and Vienna in early 1979. According to Robert Buchheim, who headed the U.S. delegation during most of these sessions, "both sides were much closer to an ASAT agreement than was publicly known." Whether final agreement could have been reached on an ASAT arms limitation treaty became a moot point when these talks, along with others, were suspended due to deteriorating U.S.-Soviet relations, particularly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.
Arms control groups not involved in space advocacy did a limited amount of work on the ASAT question, and the Stanley Foundation included it as a subject for discussions at its "Strategy for Peace" conferences in the late 1970s. Pro-space groups seemed to take almost no notice of this issue in their publications during the 1970s, with only a few scattered articles appearing. Space interest groups became actively involved in the space weapons issue not because of ASAT systems but because of the paradigm-breaking idea of basing anti-missile systems in space.
The idea of defending against missiles was not new. According to Benson D. Adams, thinking about the problem began as early as 1944, when German missiles hit targets in suburban Paris. But most early thinkers saw no way to escape vulnerability to these new weapons. "The flying bomb portends as great a revolution in warfare as those successively effected by the bow and arrow, the musket, the cannon, and the airplane," wrote Major General J. E. C. Fuller in 1944. "Possibly greater, for as all those inventions aggravated Man's propensity for war, it seems to me not improbable that this winged projectile may at length bring him to his senses." G. Edward Pendray, one of the founding members of the American Interplanetary Society, wrote the following in his 1945 book The Coming Age of Rocket Power: "No defense against such weapons has yet appeared. Probably no defense will be possible, except preparation for prompt and instant retaliation in kind and with greater power, provision of shelter underground for civilian populations, principal manufacturing plants and centers of command and communication."
A serious U.S. ballistic missile defense program was underway by 1955, and the Soviets probably were pursuing a parallel course by that time. The United States had no deployed ballistic missile defense system until 1972, although it did have a Nike-Zeus spinoff with some ASAT capability. However, using nuclear warheads had serious disadvantages, including damage to friendly space systems and to electronic equipment because of the electromagnetic pulse created by nuclear explosions. There also were doubts about the ability of antiballistic missile (ABM) systems then feasible to defend against a major missile attack.
A long debate on ABM systems took place in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1972, the United States and the Soviet Union signed a treaty limiting the ABM systems of each side. In effect, this codified a situation that American defense planners called mutual assured destruction (MAD). Each side remained vulnerable to an attack by the other. Some defense intellectuals argued that deterrence would be maintained because an attacker would be hit with a devastating second strike in retaliation.
MAD was disliked by many Americans for various reasons. Faced with the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, some called for dramatic cuts in the number of nuclear weapons, or even their abolition. Others argued that it was unnatural for a nation to surrender the right to defend itself against attack and pressed for the deployment of an ABM system. Among the latter were several space advocates.
Space Advocates, Beam Weapons, and the Space Based ABM
"Death rays" had been a feature of science fiction for a long time before the laser was invented in 1959. (They may have first appeared in H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.) The laser, which generated a coherent beam of light, held the potential of being an entirely new kind of weapon, which could damage a distant target almost instantaneously. There also was speculation about weapons using beams of subatomic particles, like those used in accelerators for scientific research. It did not take long for thinkers to make a connection between these new technologies and defense against ballistic missiles.
In his 1958 book Spaceflight — A Technical Way of Overcoming War, space visionary Eugen Sanger proposed that the problem of destroying ICBM warheads might be solved through the use of energy rays. In the November 1965 issue of Astronautics and Aeronautics, physicist Arthur Kantrowitz (later chairman of the board of the L-5 Society and a member of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy) wrote the following:
In 1969, Stefan T. Possony and Jerry E. Pournelle noted the possibility of a space-based laser ABM system in their book The Strategy of Technology. Pournelle, a space advocate as well as a science fiction writer, later became a leading figure in the L-5 Society and the chairman of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy. However, neither Kantrowitz nor Pournelle pursued the idea as far as a Lockheed Corporation engineer named Maxwell W. Hunter II.
In 1966, Hunter had published a book called Thrust into Space, in which he speculated that expanding the basic operations of the human race throughout the solar system could well create a new Renaissance. "Space is the one place," he added, "where we can obtain natural resources without damaging either the earth's ecological balance or its natural beauty." This was a decade in advance of the O'Neill/L-5 phenomenon.
Hunter, who had helped design the Nike-Zeus ABM system, has always disliked MAD. In 1984, he described it as "illegal, immoral — and fattening." According to Hunter, he started thinking about space-based ballistic missile defense in 1967 and began serious formulation in 1970. After doing initial work at Lockheed, he and his colleagues briefed officials of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Army, and got a contract in 1971 to do further work. In Hunter's phrase, the idea "percolated through the system" from 1971 to 1977. Hunter comments, "You cannot hasten the process of getting people to accept an idea" — an interesting contrast to O'Neill and his space colonies.
In 1977, Hunter learned that an introduction he had written for Lockheed proposals on this subject had been declassified. Realizing that it could make a provocative unclassified paper, he rewrote it and in early 1978 began privately circulating a paper entitled "Strategic Dynamics and Space-Laser Weaponry." Challenging MAD, Hunter pointed out that high energy lasers were proliferating and that space transportation was about to become sufficiently economical that, if it were used to place such lasers in space, an effective defense against even massive ballistic missile exchanges would be possible. "This," wrote Hunter, "is the only new strategic concept to present itself in a number of decades, and the only one which merits the words . . . potentially decisive." Hunter expected his ideas to draw fire both from arms controllers and from advocates of offensive systems.
Hunter's paper was photocopied and passed around and was mentioned in Newsweek in February 1978. In the summer of 1979 it got into political channels when Hunter met Angelo Codevilla, staff aide to Senator Malcolm Wallop of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Codevilla arranged for Hunter to meet Wallop, who became a strong and highly visible advocate of the space-based ABM. Drawing on Hunter's work, Wallop wrote an article on the subject in the fall 1979 Strategic Review.
Invited to give briefings to other senators, Hunter put together a team of industry experts that became known as "the Gang of Four": Joseph Miller of TRW Incorporated, Norbert Schnog of Perkin-Elmer Corporation, Gerald Ouelette of Draper Laboratories, and Hunter himself. This group briefed a number of senators during late 1979. The heart of their presentation was the argument that chemical laser weapons using known technology could be deployed in space in the 1980s, offering a near-term way to have an impact on the strategic situation.
The issue broke into the open in the spring of 1980, when Wallop and Congressman Ken Kramer of Colorado advocated increased funding for research into directed energy weapons that could be used in space-based ABM systems. Some defense officials took sharp exception to the views of Hunter and his colleagues, and reportedly asked their employers to make the Gang of Four ease off. Aviation Week later singled out the Gang of Four for praise for risking their professional reputations and resisting Pentagon pressure in telling Congress that U.S. industry had the capability to do the job.
Meanwhile, another space advocate named John D. Rather was pursuing a parallel track toward a similar goal. Rather worked for 15 years as an experimental physicist at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, at Oak Ridge Laboratories in Tennessee, and at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in California (the last being a major center of directed energy research). In 1974, having changed to a career of "think-tanking," he worked on a major Department of Defense study in response to Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger's call for a long-range research and development program to find a way to "defuse nuclear war." After writing the unifying final report on new technologies, Rather put together a "white paper" on the military uses of lasers. In 1975, he was asked by the Air Force to participate in the definition of future laser weapons.
Rather comments that he always had been intrigued by space and was looking for a way to get humans into space on a wholesale basis — a philosophy much in agreement with the ethos of the new pro-space movement. When satellite solar power stations began to attract attention in the early 1970s, Rather concluded that energy could be transmitted to Earth more efficiently by laser than by microwave.
In December 1976, when he was with a small firm in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, Rather distributed an unclassified paper entitled "Space Transportation, Solar Power from Space, and Space Industrialization: A Better Way." Clearly stimulated by O'Neill's ideas about space colonies, in the paper he attempted to show that the development of space as a natural resource could be accomplished on a time scale much shorter than most people would expect to be economically possible. Ground-based lasers used to energize spacecraft propulsion systems could dramatically reduce the cost of getting into orbit (this idea had been suggested by Arthur Kantrowitz in 1972). High energy lasers in space could provide the best means for the distribution of electric power derived from solar energy and could be used to propel vehicles around the inner solar system. Although this paper did not advocate a space-based ABM, Rather noted that the devices could defend themselves against attack by focusing laser energy at long range.
During the latter 1970s, Rather became increasingly active in advocating laser ABM systems using technologies more advanced than the chemical laser. Through political contacts, notably the Alabama congressional delegation led by Senator Howell Heflin, Rather proposed hearings on lasers, which were held by the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space in December 1979 and January 1980. There Senator Wallop testified on behalf of the Hunter school of thought and Rather in favor of newer technologies. The subsequent political battle, in which Wallop was supported in the House by Kramer, resulted in more funding for work on laser weapons. Although the emphasis on chemical lasers continued, there also was growing support for more innovative approaches, particularly after 1982 when House Armed Services Committee staffer Anthony Battista took up the cause.
Other space advocates were in the picture by the late 1970s, although they did not play as direct a role. H. Keith Henson had initiated a discussion of a space-based defense system with his article "Military Aspects of SSPS Power" in the May 1976 L-5 News, before either Rather or Hunter had circulated his paper. Writing that ground-based lasers for ballistic missile defense had been under study for several years, Henson pointed out the advantages of basing such weapons in space and noted the possibility of converting a satellite solar power station into a defensive system. Two months later, a letter to the L-5 News raised the other side of the issue: "Extensive discussion of the military uses of space colonization in the News Letter may create the impression that the Society is advocating this possibility. I am sure that most members will not be favorable to this use."
The debate has continued intermittently in the pages of the L-5 News ever since. Meanwhile, the National Space Institute, which always has supported the use of space technology for national defense, took a much lower profile, carrying only three articles on military activity in space in its newsletter between 1975 and 1980.
Having linked space weapons to the proposal for satellite solar power stations, some advocates of O'Neill's vision also linked them to the mining of the Moon and the asteroids. Responding in the June 1979 L-5 News to arguments that space-based lasers would be vulnerable to attack, Keith Henson proposed space forts made of extraterrestrial materials.
Carolyn Meinel, initially opposed to weapons in space, changed her views after conversations in 1978 with Maxwell W. Hunter and John Rather. She, too, became an advocate of space-based defense using directed energy weapons and pursued the subject of space forts made of nonterrestrial materials in her own writings.
A conference on "Defense Applications of Near-Earth Resources" was hosted by the California Space Institute in August 1983. This was in response to a request from former NASA Administrator James Fletcher, then heading a group studying the prospect for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Among those who participated were Maxwell Hunter and L-5 Society activist J. Peter Vajk.
The Reagan Opportunity
By the time the Reagan administration took office in January 1981, the subject of directed-energy ABM systems had been discussed in press stories for years. Newsweek reported, in 1976, that "scientists are looking into the practicality of incorporating lasers into U.S. anti-ballistic missile defenses." Retired U.S. Air Force General George Keegan made news in 1977 with allegations that the Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in developing a particle beam weapon. A year later Aviation Week and Space Technology Defense Editor Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., initiated a series of major articles on beamed energy weapons. By July 1980, that magazine was reporting a Defense Department assessment that chemical lasers based in space could destroy ballistic missiles during launch, although the decision to use these as part of a mixed ballistic missile defense force was not expected until 198587. Senator Harrison Schmitt reportedly said in May 1981 that President Reagan fully recognized that this technological revolution was providing new strategic policy options that "will in the not-too-distant future make weapons of mass destruction obsolete."
Advocates of space-based defense systems, including some pro-space activists, seized on the opportunity presented by the pro-defense Reagan administration. The first report of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy devoted a section to space-based beam weapons, arguing that "strategic-scale war in the closing sixth of this century is likely to conclude with the total and quite bloodless triumph by the nation owning the space laser system." However, the first group founded primarily to advocate space-based weapons came from different origins.
The ABM Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements limiting strategic arms have been thorns in many conservative sides, particularly as Soviet offensive capabilities increased. During the Carter administration, some conservative activists were seeking to develop alternative defense strategies that could be put into effect when the Republicans regained the White House. The core of this effort was the Strategic Alternatives Team.
Many conservatives believed that the development of U.S. technology had been throttled during the 1960s, and most fundamentally disagreed with MAD, believing that the United States should deploy defenses against the strategic weapons of the Soviet Union. Instead of simply refining existing systems, some saw a need for a "technological end run." By 1981 there was a natural conjunction between a new emphasis on ABM systems, where little was being done in their opinion, and on space, which critics of the Carter administration's defense policies saw as an area of U.S. advantage.
One of those who became intrigued by the idea of space-based ABM systems was Lieutenant General Daniel 0. Graham, who had retired from the U.S. Army in 1976 after serving as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Becoming Director of Special Projects for the conservative American Security Council, Graham also served as a national security adviser to Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan.
After Reagan was elected in November 1980, Graham and retired Air Force General Robert Richardson put together a study team under the auspices of the conservative American Security Council Foundation, with funding from corporations and wealthy individuals. Industry experts gave help and advice. After a five-month study, the group concluded that a space-based ABM system was feasible and that early deployment would be possible if kinetic energy (impact) technology were used.
Graham revealed some of his thinking in the spring 1981 issue of Strategic Review, where he argued for a shift by the United States from the race with the Soviet Union in offensive capabilities to a thrust toward defensive capabilities, specifically a space-borne defense against ballistic missiles. Graham noted a potential symbiosis between defense deployments in space and solar power satellites, saying that his proposal would encourage and support the exploitation of space for the solution of another key strategic problem — energy. Graham thereby linked strategic defense advocacy with space development advocacy. In what proved to be a prescient comment, he wrote:
Graham's study group evolved into a project called High Frontier, perhaps unwittingly borrowing the name of Gerard O'Neill's conception. Sponsorship was transferred to the conservative Heritage Foundation. The "steering group" for High Frontier included four members of President Reagan's "kitchen cabinet," Dr. Edward Teller, and Presidential Science Adviser George A. Keyworth as a "White House observer." Lowell Wood later described Teller as a "major participant" in the steering group. Meanwhile, the Reagan administration had released a policy statement including increased research and development on anti-ballistic missile systems as part of its plan to improve the strategic posture of the United States.
Frank Barnett of the National Strategy Information Center provided High Frontier with an opportunity to present its ideas to an invited audience. One of those present, former Secretary of the Army Karl Bendetsen, spoke to Graham about his enthusiasm for the concept, and "contributed substantially to the ongoing momentum of the project and to definition and consensus."
In March 1982, the group went public and published a report titled High Frontier: A New National Strategy. Described as a project of the Heritage Foundation, this book argued strongly for a layered strategic defense system that would be deployed in phases. The initial space-based system of 432 satellites would use kinetic energy weapons similar to the U.S. ASAT system then under development (a later High Frontier study by John Bosma showed that a similar system had been under consideration as early as 1959). Other layers, added later, might include directed energy weapons and terminal defense around missile silos. The study's other proposals included a high performance space plane, improved space transportation, and a space station. The defense concepts were linked loosely to space industrialization, primarily solar power satellites. Jack Manno later wrote in his book Arming the Heavens that this offered something to almost every part of the aerospace constituency.
Several well-known space advocates were involved in the High Frontier study, including Jerry Pournelle (who says he wrote the preface), solar power satellite inventor Peter Glaser, and Peter Vajk, who contributed to the economic section. Another space activist who took part was John Bosma, who co-founded the Congressional Staff Space Group in 1981, married Carolyn Meinel, and became editor of the Washington-based newsletter Military Space.
High Frontier got the support of the Conservative Caucus and money from conservative donors to, as General Robert Richardson puts it, "take the idea on the road" to determine its political feasibility and to build a constituency for it. The organization received a largely positive reaction and found that the ABM treaty was a "non-issue." Graham, who personally has campaigned tirelessly for the concept, is fond of pointing out that most Americans were surprised to learn that they were not already protected by some kind of ABM system.
This was occurring at a time of revived public concern about the danger of nuclear war, expressed most visibly by the nuclear freeze movement, Jonathan Schell's book The Fate of the Earth, and the television drama "The Day After." In addition, there was serious expert concern that the vulnerability of U.S. and Soviet land-based missiles could encourage movement toward "launch on warning" postures or even encourage a preemptive first strike in a crisis. The desire for a solution to the dilemma posed by strategic nuclear weapons was strong. In 1984 former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft wrote, "What seems to be emerging in the United States is a reaction at both ends of the political spectrum against deterrence and the despair which in the current situation it tends to promote."
The "Star Wars" Speech
There have been several published accounts of how President Reagan came to endorse accelerated research into strategic defense; most suggest that it was the culmination of a process that had gone on for some time. Yet despite the numerous press reports that had appeared over the years about beamed energy weapons, despite revived public advocacy of ABM systems and the appearance of High Frontier, most observers were startled on March 23, 1983, when President Reagan said at the end of a defense policy speech:
Reagan called on U.S. scientists to "turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." Although the President did not mention space-based weapons, press briefings given by officials later made clear that such systems, particularly those using directed energy, were a major option under consideration. This led critics in the media to label the concept "Star Wars."
Two days later, the President directed an intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program aimed at the ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by nuclear ballistic missiles. Committees of experts established to do preliminary studies issued reports in the fall of 1983 that were essentially positive, although they foresaw that the effort would take many years. The President and his national security advisers reportedly decided on November 30, 1983, to proceed with an expanded program of research and development. The Strategic Defense Initiative program was set in motion formally on January 6, 1984. Lieutenant General James Abrahamson, formerly in charge of NASA's Space Shuttle program, was made Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization in March 1984. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger wrote in a report issued the following month that "recent advances in technology offer us, for the first time in history, the opportunity to develop an effective defense against ballistic missiles."
Stimulating the Advocacy
All this gave the High Frontier organization a huge boost, even though the technological approach it preferred did not top the list. High Frontier became a membership organization, using direct mail techniques to attract large numbers of average citizens; it grew from 13,000 or 14,000 in November 1983 to about 40,000 subscribers in early 1984 and published a newsletter. Polls sponsored by conservative organizations showed that most of the respondents favored strategic defense.
Devoting much of its energy to supporting and defending the President's decision, High Frontier frequently called on its subscribers for contributions or for letters and postcards on strategic defense issues. In December 1984, Graham urged subscribers to support Secretary of Defense Weinberger's position and to oppose proposals that would make the Strategic Defense Initiative a "bargaining chip" in U.S.-Soviet arms control talks. One mailing, announcing the formation of "Americans for the High Frontier," provided preprinted postcards addressed to specific senators by the state of the contributor.
However, High Frontier encountered the kinds of limits on political action by nonprofit organizations that had caused the L-5 Society to establish Spacepac. Graham decided to create a political action committee (PAC) called the American Space Frontier Committee. He asked former Congressman Robert Dornan (sometimes known as "B-1 Bob" because of his advocacy of the bomber produced in his district) to head the organization, and Dornan took the job in July 1983. Dornan notes that he was in touch with Jerry Pournelle, who had helped him in his 1970 campaign. The first executive director of the new PAC, during July and August of 1983, was former L-5 Society leader Carolyn Meinel, who sought to make it a broad-based, nonpartisan organization. In her opinion, however, the group was taken over by the "New Right," and she departed. People on High Frontier's mailing list received direct mail solicitations from conservative organizations such as the National Conservative Political Action Committee.
In September 1983, a breakfast reception was held in Washington, D.C., to announce the formation of the new PAC. Those invited were almost entirely well-known conservatives, including Clare Booth Luce, Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms, Malcolm Wallop, Phyllis Schlafly, Jack Kemp, and "kitchen cabinet" member Justin Dart. Invitees with a strong space advocacy connection included Robert A. Heinlein and Newt Gingrich. According to Robert Dornan, the PAC's first priority as of the spring of 1984 was to support the President's decision, regardless of which technology is chosen to implement it. (Dornan admitted that the economic dimension of High Frontier has not progressed.) The American Space Frontier Committee sent out a mailing before the 1984 elections listing those members of Congress who had supported the High Frontier idea.
The administration got strong support for its initiative from some conservative members of Congress, notably Senators Wallop; Paul Laxalt, of Nevada; Jake Garn, of Utah; and William Armstrong, of Colorado. In May 1983, Congressman Ken Kramer of Colorado introduced a "People Protection Act," which called for the creation of a directed energy systems agency, a military Space Shuttle fleet, a unified Space Command, a manned space station program, and consideration of new arms control regimes using strategic defenses. Armstrong introduced a parallel measure in the Senate. Newt Gingrich also was supportive, including the idea of space-based ABM in his 1984 book Window of Opportunity.
The Strategic Defense Initiative also drew strong support from the Fusion Energy Foundation and from the publication Executive Intelligence Review, both of which are associated with the Presidential candidacy of Lyndon LaRouche. These organizations, which had begun campaigning for a space-based missile defense system in May 1982 (possibly in response to the High Frontier report), emphasized the economic as well as the military benefits of the beamed-energy research that would be conducted. One of their slogans was "Beam the Bomb."
The Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy met in August 1983 to draft a reaction to the President's initiative and to reconcile differences among advocates of different technical approaches to strategic defense such as Maxwell Hunter, Daniel Graham, and Lowell Wood of Livermore Laboratories. The report, entitled Space and Assured Survival, concluded that "The President's proposal to change the defensive posture of the United States from Mutual Assured Destruction to Assured Survival is morally correct, technologically feasible, and economically desirable." John Rather, speaking at a seminar at the Heritage Foundation in April 1984, said, "we'll stake our reputations on the fact that it's possible to do it soon."
The Strategic Defense Initiative also stimulated more expressions of opinion from citizens space advocates in their own publications. The L-5 News carried an article by General Graham in December 1983 and a rebuttal by David Webb the following month. Jerry Pournelle added his own views a month later.
Meanwhile, technological developments based on long-standing research programs achieved increased public visibility. The United States conducted the first test of its new ASAT system in January 1984. In June of that year, the U.S. Army conducted its first successful interception of a dummy missile warhead under its Homing Overlay Experiment, reportedly capping a six-year, $300 million program. A spokesman reportedly said, "We hit a bullet with a bullet."
By the end of 1984, strategic defense advocates still held the initiative in the ongoing debate. By most accounts, the Strategic Defense Initiative had been effective in defusing the nuclear freeze movement and was an important factor in bringing the Soviet Union back to the arms control negotiations in Geneva.
Judging by the open literature, established arms control groups showed relatively little interest in space weapons during the 1970s. Occasional articles and papers appeared, notably during the brief surge of media interest in the ASAT question and directed energy weapons during 1977 and 1978. However, most liberal intellectuals appeared not to take space-related issues seriously.
As in the past, criticism of military activity in space often was led by individual scientists, some of whom also were critics of the manned space program. Pro-arms control groups with a scientific base, such as the Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists, began to get more interested after the Reagan administration took office in January 1981. Several scientists and weapons experts issued a statement opposing laser weapons in space. Scientific American became an important medium for critiques of space-related weapons, particularly by Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Kosta Tsipis. However, criticisms tended to reflect distaste for weapons buildups rather than interest in space exploration or development.
The Progressive Space Forum
The first pro-space group to campaign actively against space weapons appeared before groups actively supporting space defense, growing out of a confluence of leftist politics and the California space group boom described in Chapter 8. Jim Heaphy, who had been active in the anti-war movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, discovered the space movement in the San Francisco Bay area in January 1978 through Space Age Review, a publication put out by pro-space and pro-peace activist Steve Durst. An article about Space Day 2, to be held in Sacramento in April 1978, got Heaphy involved in the rally, where he spoke on the dangers of an arms race in space. Heaphy, by then a member of the L-5 Society, saw disarmament as an unfilled niche in the pro-space movement.
Meetings held in the summer of 1979 in connection with preparations for Space Day 3 led to the formation of a group called Citizens for Space Demilitarization (CFSD). In January 1980, CFSD published the first issue of Space for All People, a quarterly newsletter that remained in publication as of 1985. An editorial by Heaphy in the June 1980 issue described CFSD as a bridge between two movements — that favoring space development and that opposed to the arms race. Noting that the L-5 Society and other space groups were trying hard to establish closer ties with the aerospace industry and American business in general, Heaphy wrote that CFSD would like to see the space movement build bridges to trade unions as well. Mentioning that CFSD included several active environmentalists, Heaphy commented that "we also want to promote the concept of democracy in the economy." Heaphy later said that CFSD tried to reach out to other pro-space groups but often encountered a wary response.
Placing advertisements in leftist papers, CFSD got a response from young Georgia space enthusiast John Pike, then involved with Barry Commoner's Citizens Party and with the anti-draft organization CARD. Pike formed a CFSD chapter in Atlanta and later went on to become a key player in the space arms control effort.
In 1981, the group changed its name to Progressive Space Forum (PSF), partly so that the public would more readily realize that the group had things to say about the social benefits of the peaceful uses of space technology. Heaphy circulated a draft PSF program that favored, in addition to space arms control measures and a nuclear freeze, an international civilian space station, a passenger module for the Space Shuttle, space science programs, and active recruitment and training of civilians of all nations to serve as Space Shuttle pilots and crew members.
After the election of Ronald Reagan, the PSF shifted toward a stronger emphasis on disarmament and tried to improve liaison with other arms control groups. However, Heaphy found that other groups did not take space arms seriously and that they tended to be condescending until the President's speech of March 23, 1983.
With just over 200 members in 1984, the PSF has very limited resources for influencing policy. Heaphy sent out postcards in June 1984 urging people to write the President and members of Congress on space arms control issues and later sent a personal letter supporting pro-arms control and pro-space California Congressman George E. Brown against conservative efforts to unseat him. (Brown won.)
Although there is little evidence of influence on Congress or the administration, PSF leaders are proud of having been the pioneers in pushing the space weapons issue into public debate. "The perspective we have had for five years," said Heaphy in April 1984, "was adopted by the big organizations overnight." Heaphy believes that the PSF's greatest achievement was the development of John Pike into a leading lobbyist for space arms control.
The Origins of a Lobby in Washington
Based in California, the PSF had no lobbying presence in the national capital. As of 1980, it could be said that no space arms control lobby existed in Washington, D.C. That year, Congressman George Brown (who describes himself as "a bonafide space nut") introduced a National Space Policy Act emphasizing the peaceful uses of space, but the bill never got out of committee. In 1981, Senator Larry Pressler introduced a resolution calling on the President to resume anti-satellite arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union, but his bill suffered the same fate as Brown's. The Soviet government submitted a draft space arms control treaty to the United Nations in August 1981. However, there was no organized American interest group response to space weapons issues.
The space arms control lobby that developed in Washington during 1982 and 1983 was the result of informal contacts between like-minded people. One of the first of those contacts was made in the summer of 1980 at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' "Global 2000" conference in Baltimore, where Robert M. Bowman met Carol S. Rosin.
Rosin, as a schoolteacher in a suburb of Washington, D.C., had attracted attention when her use of space themes as a teaching device was reported in the local press in 1972. Noticed by Fairchild Industries Incorporated, she was hired by the company as corporate manager of community relations and became a personal assistant to Wernher von Braun until his death. Unwilling to work on weapons projects, she left in 1977 to work for other firms.
Bowman, an Air Force colonel, had been manager of advanced space programs for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Organization before his retirement in 1978. He was manager of the General Dynamics advanced space programs division at the time of the Baltimore conference, where he was chairman of a session called "Orbital Systems 2000." Rosin questioned panelists about the fact that none had raised the danger of weapons in space. Bowman later sought out Rosin and suggested that the two of them try to come up with an alternative to an arms race in space. At the Rome conference of the International Astronautical Federation in September 1981, they gave a joint presentation entitled "The Socioeconomic Benefits of an International Communications and Observation Platform Program," including a proposal to use satellites for international peace-keeping (the PSF endorsed the same idea).
Meanwhile, preparations were under way for a United Nations conference on space, called UNISPACE, to be held in Vienna in August 1982. Finding that the administration was disinclined to participate as of late 1981, space activist David Webb put together an informal lobbying effort under the name U.S. Space 82. Congressman George Brown, Senator Alan Cranston, Senator Adlai Stevenson III, and others intervened with the administration. The United States hastily put together a delegation during the spring of 1982.
By then, interest in the military uses of space was rising because of a variety of events. The High Frontier report had been issued in March 1982. In June 1982, the press reported that Secretary of Defense Weinberger had directed the U.S. Air Force to deploy ASAT weapons within five years. The July 4, 1982, statement of U.S. national space policy made it clear that the United States intended to continue developing its anti-satellite capability.
Bowman left General Dynamics at the end of 1981 to take a job as vice-president of the Space Communciations company, but it lasted only six months. One of the events that precipitated his departure was the company's refusal to grant him leave to attend UNISPACE. Bowman went to Vienna representing the Friends World Committee. Rosin was there representing the International Association of Educators for World Peace. Both wanted the conference to address the issue of weapons in space.
In fact, the "militarization" of space was already an issue. In drafting a conference document, the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had included four paragraphs on the subject. However, the U.S. delegation opposed the inclusion of this language, or more extreme language suggested by some other delegations. After much negotiating, a compromise was worked out in which the conference did express concern about the issue.
Space weapons also were a major subject at the parallel meeting of nongovernment organizations, part of which was chaired by David Webb. Bowman chaired a session on the militarization of space. Bowman and Rosin discussed the formation of a space arms control group but had a falling out and went on to form two small groups in the Washington, D.C., area in late 1982 and early 1983: the Institute for Space and Security Studies (Bowman), and the Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space (Rosin). Bowman has a broad war prevention agenda, extending beyond space weapons. Rosin not only opposes space weapons but also supports commercial and cooperative ventures in space.
Crystallizing the Lobby
Seeing a television report about ASAT systems during the summer of 1982, Congressman Joseph Moakley, of Massachusetts, asked staff aide James McGovern to research the subject. In September, Moakley introduced a resolution that called on the President to resume bilateral talks with the Soviet Union for the purpose of negotiating a comprehensive and verifiable treaty banning space weapons (the goals to be pursued in that treaty were drawn from the Stanley Foundation's Strategy for Peace Conference reports). Among those endorsing the bill were the three leaders of the Planetary Society. In February 1983, Senators Paul Tsongas, Claiborne Pell, and Gary Hart introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
Although Moakley's bill was never passed by the House, it provided a rallying point for space arms control activists, particularly liberal Democratic members and staffers on Capitol Hill. Moakley and McGovern began working closely with George Brown and his aide Sybil Francis.
The resolution also brought people "out of the woodwork," as McGovern puts it. One was Daniel Deudney, a Worldwatch Institute researcher who in August 1982 had published a critical paper on U.S. activities in space. (Deudney had no sympathy for the attitudes of space developers like those leading the L-5 Society, denouncing "the lawlessness and escapism of the frontier mentality.") By December 1982, Deudney was meeting informally with other interested people in Washington, including John Pike of the Progressive Space Forum (who worked briefly with Carol Rosin), British scholar Paul Stares (then completing a book on U.S. ASAT and space arms control policy at the Brookings Institution), and former Center for Defense Information staffer Thomas Karas (then working on his book The New High Ground). A critical mass of activists favoring space arms control began to form.
Allying with the Scientists
This small group of activists gained considerable leverage by allying with science-based arms control groups. In January 1983, the Federation of American Scientists (which had shown interest in the subject as early as 1981) hired John Pike as its Staff Assistant for Space Policy to be a lobbyist and to coordinate space arms control efforts. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) took on Peter Didisheim to help UCS lobbyist Charles Monfort.
President Reagan' s speech of March 23, 1983, had a galvanizing effect on this nascent lobby. A group of scientists first assembled by Cornell University professor Kurt Gottfried in February 1983 drafted a space arms control treaty and presented it in a UCS report published in June, and some testified in April and May. In June, Carl Sagan and Richard Garwin, a scientist with International Business Machines, brought a petition calling for negotiations on space arms control to Capitol Hill; this led to a letter to the President signed by over 100 members of Congress, urging a moratorium on testing ASAT systems in space. A similar letter was sent to the President by 40 scientists, arms control experts, and former defense officials.
Meanwhile, Pike began convening a mix of congressional staffers and lobbyists, allying people inside and outside the congressional institution who shared similar views. By June 1983 they were meeting weekly, initially in the office of Congressman Moakley. The list of organizations represented grew to include Physicians for Social Responsibility, Council for a Livable World, and the institutes led by Bowman and Rosin. This loose coalition, whose meetings were chaired by John Pike, came to be known informally as the Space Working Group. Lobbying efforts were divided up among those from organizations outside the Congress.
Deudney and Rosin made a special effort with Senator Claiborne Pell, who was to lead a delegation of U.S. senators to Moscow in August 1983. Deudney proposed language for a draft space arms control treaty, similar to the UCS draft. After the Pell delegation met with Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, the latter called for a complete ban on space weapons and offered to have the Soviet Union observe a moratorium on ASAT testing if the United States would do the same. The Soviets submitted a draft space arms control treaty to the United Nations later that month.
John Pike achieved a major increase in the space arms control constituency in December 1983 when he persuaded the Nuclear Freeze movement to make space arms control one of its priorities for 1984. Pike noted later that most of the people active against space weapons had come from the freeze movement and knew nothing about space.
The new space arms control lobby changed tactics during 1983. Instead of trying to legislate general statements of policy, those opposed to space weapons drew on a technique used by other arms control groups and went after funding for U.S. weapons systems. They began with the U.S. ASAT system because of speculation that its development offered a convenient cover for anti-ballistic missile research.
In June 1983 a complex series of legislative moves was begun to delete procurement funding for the ASAT system and to block or limit tests. Members of Congress active in this effort included George Brown, of California; Joseph Moakley, of Massachusetts; Jim Leach, of Iowa; John F. Seiberling, of Ohio; Matthew F. McHugh, of New York; Lawrence Coughlin, of Pennsylvania; and Senators Paul Tsongas, of Massachusetts, and Larry Pressler, of South Dakota. The result was twofold: (1) an amendment to the defense authorization bill barring a flight test of an ASAT system against a target in space until the President certified that he was endeavoring in good faith to negotiate an ASAT arms control agreement and (2) an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that directed that the funds for ASAT procurement could not be obligated or expended until after the administration had submitted a report to Congress on U.S. policy on arms control plans and objectives in the field of ASAT systems. The administration's report of April 2, 1984, expressed serious doubts about the verifiability of an ASAT arms control agreement and did not see the pursuit of such an agreement as being in the national interest.
Just before the administration's report was received, Brown, Moakley, Seiberling, and their allies inside and outside Congress announced the formation of a Coalition for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. (Pike describes this as the formal superstructure of the Space Working Group.) At a Capitol Hill press conference, Brown announced that the coalition's goals were to seek (1) a mutual ASAT test moratorium; (2) a reduction in funds for "Star Wars" research; and (3) a reaffirmation of the U.S. commitment to the ABM treaty.
Meanwhile, individual scientists and groups continued to produce critiques of the Strategic Defense Initiative. The Union of Concerned Scientists put out a report in March 1984 entitled Space-Based Missile Defense (a parallel report by a group of Soviet scientists appeared not long after). Carl Sagan and IBM scientist Richard Garwin sent letters on space arms control to world leaders in April, drawing a favorable response from Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko the following month. However, the United States conducted another test of its ASAT system in November 1984.
As of the end of 1984, the space arms control lobby remained only a limited success. Legislation for fiscal year 1985 held to three the number of tests of the U.S. ASAT system that could be conducted during the fiscal year. Funding for the Strategic Defense Initiative was cut below the administration request, although not as much as opponents wished. Meanwhile, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an exchange of messages and statements about space arms control negotiations, finally agreeing in January 1985 to resume negotiations on offensive nuclear arms and to include space and defense arms in the talks.
In the view of some observers, it was President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative that brought the Soviets back to the negotiating table. Whatever the reasons for reviving the negotiations on space weapons, some space advocates remained skeptical about the long-term outcome of space arms control talks. Said former American Astronautical Society President Charles Sheffield, "The arms controllers should have started about 1975."
The U.S.-Soviet agreement on space cooperation was not renewed when it expired in 1982. In February 1984, Senator Spark Matsunaga, of Hawaii, with the support of Senators Charles Mathias and Claiborne Pell, introduced a joint resolution "relating to cooperative East-West ventures in space as an alternative to a space arms race." Congressman Mel Levine of California sponsored a similar bill in the House. During hearings on the bill in the fall of 1984, Matsunaga got support from Carl Sagan and Louis D. Friedman, leading figures in the Planetary Society. Matsunaga suggested several future cooperative missions, including a manned mission to Mars, as an alternative to "Star Wars." Matsunaga aide Harvey Meyerson believes that such cooperation opens up a new constituency for space — those interested in relations with the Soviet Union.
On October 30, 1984, President Reagan signed a joint resolution on East-West space cooperation, noting that the United States had proposed a simulated space rescue mission. A few months later, AIAA President John McLucas gave his support in print, writing, "For only space offers an arena, a theme, and an organizing principle grand enough to permit us to transcend our differences and set humanity on a new and more hopeful course."
The Planetary Society had been particularly active in supporting revived U.S.-Soviet space cooperation. Louis Friedman wrote in the August 1984 Aerospace America that extending human civilization to space could bring a new era of global security, and he suggested a lunar base, a manned expedition to Mars, or a prospecting journey to some asteroids undertaken by an international team. Meanwhile, the film "2010," which was released late in 1984, proved to be a thinly disguised plea for U.S.-Soviet space cooperation.
International Peacekeeping from Space
Long before this debate, some of those interested in space technology saw it as an opportunity to create a global security system, beginning with internationally controlled observation satellites. Former airline executive Howard Kurtz and his late wife Harriett began looking into this over two decades ago, forming a small organization called War Control Planners. In a May 1969 article in Military Review, they spelled out a step-by-step approach to global security, beginning with surveillance systems for experimental installation in orbiting laboratories; all nations would have access to the data. Eventually, the Kurtz team wanted to see global command and control of the world's military power.
During 1973 and 1974, an executive of the ITEK Corporation introduced the idea of an internationally managed "verification satellite," stimulating a study group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that issued a report in 1978 on a "Crisis Management Satellite."  At the first Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to disarmament, held in New York in May-June 1978, the French government introduced a proposal for an International Satellite Monitoring Agency, and a U.N. study group produced a generally favorable report on the subject in 1983. Testifying before a congressional committee in 1981, Arthur C. Clarke endorsed the concept, which he calls "Peacesat." Daniel Deudney pursued the theme of a space-based global security system in two reports written for the Worldwatch Institute. During 1984, this theme was taken up by new AIAA President John McLucas, who foresaw remote sensing satellites evolving into a peacekeeping system. Carol Rosin's ISCOS has picked up on some of these ideas, supporting a global security satellite monitoring system and an international military space command post.
Others have internationalized the idea of space-based strategic weapons, turning it into a proposed global defense system. In his 1946 article "The Rocket and the Future of Warfare," Arthur C. Clarke proposed that a World Security Council should be given long-range atomic rockets as an ultimate deterrent to war. In the Spaceflight Revolution, William S. Bainbridge suggested an international "Space Patrol" designed to shoot down any object that rose above the atmosphere without special permission. "Thus," he wrote, "the Space Patrol would revolutionize war by making defense superior to offense." The Space Patrol was the only military project Bainbridge could think of that was both humanely desirable and would further space technology.
In San Francisco, Kenneth Largman founded the Strategic Arms Control Organization (later the World Security Council) in 1980 to encourage the coordination of U.S. and Soviet laser and particle beam space defenses, eliminating the dangers associated with one-sided deployment; this would involve interlocking communications systems, inspection teams, and controlled deployment. Board members included Peter Vajk and Stan Kent. After President Reagan's "Star Wars" speech, Princeton Professor Richard H. Ullman suggested in the New York Times that the United Nations be given authority to operate space based anti-ballistic missile defenses. Ben Bova pursued the idea in his 1984 book Assured Survival, suggesting an international peacekeeping force. "The technical means for warfare suppression," he wrote, "are at our fingertips."
Space-based ballistic missile defense presents the temptation of a new military detour for the pro-space movement. Some space advocates already have seized what they see as an opportunity to speed up space industrialization and settlement, which share the military's need for certain enabling technologies such as heavy lift launch vehicles, compact energy sources, and the assembly of large structures in space. To these space advocates, weapons in space are not only a solution to the nuclear dilemma but also a means to break through the cost and political barriers to large-scale space development — in effect, a successor to the solar power satellite. Science fiction writer Frederick Pohl has been quoted as saying that what most upsets him "is that most of the authors supporting 'Star Wars' are not cold warriors but people who want to trick the military into spending money on space."
No one has been more active in this regard than L-5 Society cofounder H. Keith Henson. "It's a long way from military space bunkers to what we are really interested in, the human habitation of space," he wrote in the October 1979 L-5 News, "but other than the SSPS project, the space bunkers are the only other extraterrestrial resources project that might be economically justifiable."  "Hitching a ride into space on the back of the military may not be very dignified, but it beats walking," he wrote four years later. "Setting up the pipeline for ETM [extraterrestrial materials] would get us 90% of the way to space colonies." Arguing that we should seek to substitute the goal of international military stability in place of national military advantage, Henson's article "Weapons for Peace" in the July 1984 L-5 News said that the issue "may be far more important than the Moon Treaty. It may make the difference between slavery and freedom. It may make the difference between peace and nuclear war. It might be our key to the solar system."
One of the appeals of "Star Wars" is that it joins the space dynamic with the strategic defense dynamic. It couples the appeal of futuristic space technology with a promised solution to the threat of nuclear war.
On the other hand, many space enthusiasts oppose weapons in space. To a large degree, this opposition seems to stem from the fact that space weapons would conflict with their optimistic, even idealistic vision of space humanization. Many want to go into space to put the conflicts and tensions of Earth behind them, not to carry them outward into the solar system. In the March 1983 issue of Astronomy, space activist Jon Alexandr of the Progressive Space Forum explicitly opposed a new military detour by the pro-space movement, finding this attitude "abhorrent, unethical, and dangerous."
Dividing the Pro-Space Movement
This issue of weapons in space threatens to divide the new pro-space movement along left-right lines for the first time, cracking the bipartisan consensus that has underlain most pro-space activism. By 1984, some pro-space organizations were beginning to line up on one side of the issue or the other. The American Space Foundation, for example, appeared sympathetic to the Strategic Defense Initiative, while the Planetary Society's leaders clearly opposed it. This debate seemed to be closely related to the manned versus unmanned, exploration versus development issue, since many of those opposed to space weapons also are critical of the manned space program, while some of the most ardent advocates of putting more humans into space also support the space-based ABM. In the January/February 1982 issue of The Planetary Report, planetary scientist Clark Chapman wrote, "Will a space station become a military fortress in the sky after millions of space enthusiasts have supported its development for more lofty goals?. . . Let's hope the Shuttle becomes more than a truck to be filled with military cargo."
Nowhere is this divisiveness better seen than in the L-5 Society, where "pro-space" feelings may run highest. Several observers have predicted an exodus of the more liberal members of the society if its leaders endorse space-based weapons. Some feared an open split at the society's April 1984 convention in San Francisco, where Keith Henson, Jerry Pournelle, and some others sought society support for the space-based ABM. However, the issue was papered over when the society's board decided to not take a position. A debate also has appeared in the conservative pages of the American Astronautical Society newsletter.
The issue also has divided another part of the pro-space constituency: science fiction writers. "There used to be a feeling that we were all pushing for space," said one editor. "Now there is a feeling of conflict over the imminent dangers of nuclear war."
Undermining the Support Base
In the long run, the greater danger is that the controversy will rub off on the perception that Americans have of the whole space enterprise, dividing the potential pro-space constituency along left-right lines. Trudy E. Bell wrote in her 1982 paper that virtually all the pro-space groups she contacted reported a dramatic jump (since 1980) in public awareness about the militarization of space. Those groups that reported some opposition toward space activities indicated that the antagonism was specifically directed toward military activities. "The idea that NASA expenditures are a quasi-military form of defense spending has been a major cause of the erosion of liberal support for the U.S. space program," wrote one correspondent in Astronomy in 1981. Says former Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins, a liberal who has supported space exploration: "If space will be used for military purposes, some of us will be forced to oppose the space program."
The space weapons issue already has become a new battleground between conservatives and liberals in American politics. Republicans have seized the initiative on space weapons as they have on space commercialization and the space station, and a Republican President is leading the way in all three cases. In their platforms for the 1984 elections, the Republicans and Democrats took diametrically opposite positions on space issues. The Republicans supported the Strategic Defense Initiative, the space station, and space commercialization. The Democrats blasted the idea of weapons in space and said nothing about the space station or space commercialization. Walter Mondale, who had been a leading opponent of the Space Shuttle, told an audience in April 1984 that "if you help me to get nominated, I can make the 1984 election a choice between Star Wars and a space freeze."
Riding piggyback on space weapons clearly is tempting to some space developers, despite some fears that it could be a Faustian bargain. Politically, they could run the risk of a major interruption if a liberal Democratic administration took office in the near future. To some space advocates, a better and more permanent approach is to unleash the energies of private enterprise through space commercialization.