The revelation last week that China had slammed a medium-range ballistic missile into one of its aging satellites on January 11 and littered space with junk fragments has created its own form of political debris in Washington, D.C.
The test, which the United States military had long anticipated, has touched off debate over how the U.S. government should interpret and respond to China’s actions.
“It’s a very provocative act,” said Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst and China expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists. However, “policy makers should respond on the basis of accurate information, not military rhetoric and propaganda.”
For advocates of a more aggressive American posture in space, the anti-satellite test — the first since the United States conducted one in 1985 — confirms long-held suspicions about China’s military ambition in space, and justifies the need for increased spending on space-based weapons programs that recall the star-wars aspirations of the Reagan presidency.
“I hope the Chinese test will be a wake up call to people,” said Hank Cooper, a former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program and the chairman of High Frontier, a missile defense advocacy group. “I’d like to see us begin a serious anti-satellite program. We’ve been leaning on the administration. This argument to prevent weaponization of space is really silly.”
It’s true — when one nation moves into space weapons, others are forced to follow just to keep up. It’s the Red Queen scenario, where you have to keep moving forward just to stay in the same place. Because preventing the weaponization of space is likely impossible, it looks like we will have to come to terms with it. One beneficial side effect of a space weapons could be the development of better space systems in general, which could eventually be used to create autonomous colonies.