U.S. President Donald Trump has made ‘Make America Great Again” his mantra. Now it seems he isn’t satisfied with making America First on earth. He also has his sights set on outer space.
An unclassified Department of Defense document, one of many, shows high interest from the United States to weaponize space, as well as detonate weapons in outer space. It’s from the 1950’s, and for those who’ve looked into space matters over the years, it comes as no surprise at all that Donald Trump is announcing a new branch of the military, a United States Space Force…
“It’s not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” the president recently said. “We must have American dominance in space.”
With that, Trump ordered his military to begin work on the possibility of creating a new, sixth branch of the U.S. military called ‘Space Force’. Former U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao openly wonders what the United States hopes to accomplish.
“What are you gaining by creating a space force? What problems are you solving?” Chiao said.
Right now, the United States Air Force is responsible for military efforts in outer space. Chiao believes there is no reason to create a “Space Force” if dominance is the goal.
“I would argue that the assets and capabilities of the United States through the Air Force are already the preeminent space power,” Chiao said. “What are you gaining by creating a separate Space Force?”
He also said there is no question that all nations with space programs are developing space-based weapons. Chiao points out there is a 1967 Outer Space Treaty, that mandates missions to space be limited to only peaceful purposes.
The Trump administration is now talking about testing weapons or conducting military exercises in space, or worse, making it the next battlefield.
“I would be very shocked and unhappy if we were to go and throw away some of the treaties we have that would control the spread of some of the weapons that we have in space,” Chiao said.
Other U.S. presidents have toyed with the idea of creating a military arm for space, most notably Ronald Reagan back in the 1980’s. He wanted to develop an anti-missile system dubbed “Star Wars”.
However, this isn’t science fiction, and it’s becoming serious drama. China and Russia both have strong space programs. Russian leaders are worried about Trump’s latest push. They say U.S militarization of space is a “path to disaster.” They’ve vowed that if the United States pursued this avenue, it would be met with a Russian “tough response.”
In addition to the natural radiation dangers which will confront the space traveler, we must also consider manmade perils which may exist during time of war. In particular, the use of nuclear weapons may pose a serious problem to manned military space operations. The singular emergence of man as the most vulnerable component of a space-weapon system becomes dramatically apparent when nuclear weapon effects in space are contrasted with the effects which occur within the Earth’s atmosphere.
When a nuclear weapon is detonated close to the Earth’s surface the density of the air is sufficient to attenuate nuclear radiation (neutrons and gamma rays) to such a degree that the effects of these radiations are generally less important than the effects of blast and thermal radiation. The relative magnitudes of blast, thermal and nuclear radiation effects are shown in figure 1 for a nominal fission weapon (20 kilotons) at sea level.
The solid portions of the three curves correspond to significant levels of blast, thermal, and nuclear radiation intensities. Blast overpressures of the order of 4 to 10 pounds per square inch will destroy most structures. Thermal intensities of the order of 4 to 10 calories per square centimeter will produce severe burns to exposed persons. Nuclear radiation dosages in the range 500 to 5,000 roentgens are required to produce death or quick incapacitation in humans.
The Effect of Nuclear Weapons, U. S. Department of Defense, published by the Atomic Energy Commission, June 1957.
First, in the absence of an atmosphere, blast disappears completely.
Second, thermal radiation, as usually defined, also disappears. There is no longer any air for the blast wave to heat and much higher frequency radiation is emitted from the weapon itself.
Figure 2 shows the dosage-distance relationship for a 20-kiloton explosion when the burst takes place at sea level and when the burst takes place in space. We see that in the range 500 to 5,000 roentgens the space radii are of the order of 8 to 17 times as large as the sea-level radii. At lower dosages the difference between the two cases becomes even larger.
POSSIBLE COMMUNICATION EFFECTS
On August 1 and 12, 1958, nuclear warheads were detonated in missiles over Johnston Island in the Pacific.
These detonations were accompanied by impressive visual displays seen over wide areas, leading observers to the opinion that the detonations took place at very high altitudes.
These displays were even seen on Samoa, some 2,000 miles from Johnston Island.
The visual displays were accompanied by disruptive effects on radio communications. Specifically, most commercial communication systems operating on the high-frequency (about 5 to 25 megacycles) bands in the Pacific noted substantial disturbances. Most links within a few hundred miles of Johnston Island experienced “outages” for as long as several hours, at various times over a period of about a day. In general, the effects on high-frequency communication links appear to have been quite similar to the effects produced by giant solar flares.
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