On Space Diplomacy
Where the Stone Age meets the Space Age
Greg Autry,Peter Navarro
Friday, February 22, 2008
Hiding behind the faux skirts of public safety, the Pentagon has blasted one of its own spy satellites out of the sky. This provocative act is bad policy and bad politics.
The ill-fated spy satellite failed immediately after launch in 2006 and was doomed to fall to Earth. The Pentagon insists it had to pre-emptively destroy the satellite to prevent public exposure to the toxic gas hydrazine - commonly used as a satellite propellant.
This public safety argument, however, strains credulity.
Yes, hydrazine is toxic. However, given the size of the Earth and its vast ocean expanses, a dangerous impact in a highly populated area was exceedingly unlikely - in the last 50 years, 17,000 manmade objects have re-entered the atmosphere without a fatality.
Moreover, beyond a few hundred yards from the point of impact, the hydrazine gas would have dissipated with little effect. It is far more likely the Pentagon had a hidden agenda - and a crowded one at that.
One goal was certainly to prevent the spy satellite and its sensitive equipment from falling into enemy hands.
The Pentagon shoot-down was likely also a belated "tit for tat" response to China's January 2007 anti-satellite weapons test when it used one of its own weather satellites for target practice.
The only reason China needs to develop anti-satellite weaponry is to disable America's military satellite system during times of conflict, and the Bush administration was clearly angered at China's provocative test.
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