(HOST) Discovery is on the launchpad and it appears that America’s return to space is imminent – and commentator Bill Seamans says that a new space race is likely to be just around the corner, too.
(SEAMANS) The launching of Discovery will resume the American journey into space that was interrupted by the Columbia disaster two and-a-half years ago. And you can be sure that President Bush again will declare his intention to send another mission to the moon and, from there, perhaps on to Mars. What I don’t ex- pect him to do is discuss his intention to establish military control over space – the last potential battlefield after land, sea and air.
Our military presence in space has been established for years by those satellites that are the heart of our army, navy and air force communications – and by others that can spy on an enemy’s territory and eavesdrop on his electronic messages. But President Bush and company have been quietly shaping a new policy that would call for adding weapons to our military presence in space. The main reasons for weaponizing space are said to be to protect our vital military and commercial satellites and to establish wea- pons platforms that can strike, within minutes, an enemy position anywhere on earth.
More than four years ago, a Space Commission chaired by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called for establishing a “Space Corps” along the lines of the Marine Corps and perhaps a fully separate Pentagon “Space Department” equal to the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Then, as recently as two months ago, The New York Times reported that the Air Force was seeking Bush’s approval to put what were called defensive weapons into space – a major shift in American policy that would be opposed by allies who say we would create an arms race in space. Beyond the military and diplomatic questions, weaponizing our space force would add billions to our defense costs and to the profit margins of our de- fense industries. One cartoonist portrayed an astronaut planting
a new flag on the moon labeled “Halliburton”.
Meanwhile, the Times said that, with little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them. General Lance Lord, who heads our Air Force Space Command, said, “Space superior- ity is our destiny.”
And no doubt of considerable concern for the Pentagon, the Chin- ese are planning another manned space flight in the fall, and they have said that they also plan to build their own space station and to put their astronauts on the moon.
Yes, it surely looks and sounds like the beginning of a space race.
This is Bill Seamans.
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.