A STRANGE WEEK OF SPACE NEWS: PART ONEJune 29, 2016
This last week, as I indicated a few days ago, has been a very strange week for space news, stories that you may have missed with all the focus on BREXIT and its implications. What I noticed, however, is a strange sense of timing hovers over them, as they're all coming out more or less in the same time window. And, as has become a familiar pattern, curiously it's the Russian media sources that are giving them play. Many regular readers here contributed many of these articles, so let's start with this first one: a video of a US Army recruiment campaign, clearly referencing "combat with aliens" both at the beginning, and at the end:
Ok, so what, you say? Well, on its own it's not too significant. But combine that with recent Boeing stupor-bowl halftime commercials, statements by General Kinney at military gatherings that we have to be ready to fight "ETs", and other high strangeness coming out of the military-industrial complex (think Lockheed-Martin in Antarctica here), and I cannot help but get the distinct impression-intuition-suspicion (I don't know quite what to call it), that "something is up" and that we're slowly being prepared for "it".
Then there was this, from Russia's Sputnik, and I cannot help but ponder this strange article:
Now, when one reads this article in depth, there is of course no reference to "fighting beyond the stars" or "aliens" or "ET" or anything of the sort. But it is Sputnik's choice of title and sub-title for the article that intrigues me. The title - "Space Weapons: The US Seeks to Innovate How America Fights Beyond the Stars" - does compel certain speculations and imaginations, for note the use of the present tense, not the future tense: How America Fights beyond the stars, not, How America will fight beyond the stars, &c. Shades of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, who claimed to have hacked into US Department of Defense computers, and have found curious reference to a hidden "space fleet". Of course, we know what happened to him: the US pitched a hissy-fit, demanded extradition from Britain, so it could throw him into a deep dark hole. Britain refused. (And that, to my mind, was suspicious in itself, in today's terrorism and hacking-conscious age, when allies are supposed to "stick together," unless of course, his hacking was perhaps tied to MI-6? "Just what are the colonies doing up there?" &c. McKinnon's protection by the British government I always found to be as suspicious as the hack itself).
Then there's the sub-title to the Sputnik article: The Air Force has devised a new framework for interstellar warfare called Space Enterprise Vision." Now, I don't for a moment attach much suspicion to the US AIr Force having war plans for wars against some off planet invader. General staffs do this sort of thing all the time, and it would be the height of irrationality to assume that the US Air Force, Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, Royal Canadian Air Force, and so on, do not have such plans in their safes, and that they do not wargame such events. From time to time we hear stories of such wargames. No surprise there. What is interesting about this subtitle is that this is being done under the aegis of something called "Space Enterprise Vision," in other words, as I've been arguing, if you're going to commericalize and privatize space, you have to "protect the sea lanes" and that requires, so to speak, "ships of the line", i.e., great big platforms carrying lots of guns hiding behind thick wooden planking designed to slug it out with anyone presuming to interdict those sea lanes. You get the idea: the commercialization of space implies - and requires - its weaponization.
Obviously the focus of the article itself is on terrestrial possibilities and a potential enemy's "bright lines" or trigger points, the lines in space that we, or they, cannot or should not cross without triggering a "major incident", the polite euphemism of such studies for "war." But it takes little imagination to see that such studies could be, and probably are, extrapolated to deal with "other" potential enemies.
THen there were these stories, shared by Mr. S.D.:
The first article reveals the basic plan for a permanent Russian human presence on the Moon, and the plans are similar to other plans being advanced in Europe, China, and the USA:
They said the process of constructing the base would be done in stages, likely extending over a decade or more. The agency is reportedly developing a rocket to transport portions of the base to the moon over six separate launches.
It is a grandiose undertaking for a space agency that saw its projected budget for 2016-2025 trimmed by more than half last year, falling to a commitment of 1.5 trillion rubles, or roughly $30 billion.
In May, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told Interfax, a non-governmental Russian news agency, that “Russia will never catch up to the United States in the space race.” He claimed Roscosmos had fallen behind NASA and SpaceX founder Elon Musk by “ninefold.”
What's going on here? I suspect simply that this means Russia intends to be a part of this lunar base effort, rather than to attempt it on its own. However, it has an advantage that few appreciate: it has studied long term effects of zero and lower gravity on the ISS and its MIR space stations, and also has a large, servicable, and workable booster technology. As we also saw earlier this week, Russia is also investing money in the development of cyber technologies, including robotics: the presence of any Russian components in such an international mission would eventually and most likely require a Russian presence to service them. Keep that "international" component in mind here, because it will bear fruit in tomorrow's blog
I've blogged about the second article before, i.e., about the idea of basing a space station halfway between the Earth and the Moon. It would be, as the article notes, a rational place to position a station, one not only designed to replace the International Space Station, but as a base for lunar expeditions and other solar system expeditions. Note also that this is coming from the German....er.... European Space Agency. Note that the station is to be placed in an orbit at the equigravisphere between the Earth and the Moon:
"Let me take you on a thought experiment about 10 years into the future," David Parker, the ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, told the media at a press conference in Germany this week, celebrating the safe return of British astronaut Tim Peake to Earth.
"After 25 years of service, the International Space Station is coming to the end of its life, but now 1,000 times further out in space a new star has risen," he added. "A human outpost in deep space, located far out, where Earth and [the] Moon's gravity balance, a kind of crossroads in space."
According to Parker, the remote location of the space base would mean it could serve as much more than just a replacement for the ISS, enabling new kinds of scientific study in space – and chiefly, far greater access to the Moon.
"This is our deep space habitat, a new place to live and learn how to work in space, a kind of base camp for exploring the Solar System and reaching back down to the surface of the Moon," he said. "[Astronauts] can look down on a Moon untroubled by humans in more than 50 years. We want to go back there, we've barely scratched the surface."
Now, this story and idea appeared before, but note the date: it is being trotted out again, and within the same time frame as the other stories. The choice of the equigravispherical orbit is also logical, both from a practical, scientific, and needless to say, military point of view.
So what's going on? Well, for that, we'll have to await the high octane speculations of tomorrow's blog:
See you on the flip side...