Chicken Little As Red Herring

You’re waking up to the exciting news that a falling satellite has been shot out of the sky, thus preventing a potentially dangerous crash landing, with a potentially dangerous release of toxic gas. The Pentagon is proudly showing off the video. On television, it will likely be the most played clip of the day. You can expect much hyperventilated cheerleading from the usual professional hairpieces. But there’s one aspect to the story that I don’t expect the TV news to cover. It’s tucked in this New York Times report:

Completing a mission in which an interceptor designed for missile defense was used for the first time to attack a satellite, the Lake Erie, an Aegis-class cruiser, fired a single missile just before 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, and the missile hit the satellite as it traveled at more than 17,000 miles per hour, the Pentagon said in its official announcement.

It almost sounds good. As if the most expensive weapons system in human history was finally being put to positive use. But what if that was the purpose, all along? Two days ago, the science journal Nature had this:

A plan by the US government to shoot down an out-of-control spy satellite has been described as a cynical tit-for-tat move in response to China doing the same last year. Scientists and arms-control experts fear that the operation will create damaging debris and weaken international efforts to ban space weaponry.

On 14 February, officials from the Pentagon, White House and NASA announced plans to use a ship-based missile to strike the satellite as it passes roughly 240 kilometres overhead. The satellite, which belongs to the National Reconnaissance Office in Virginia, dropped out of control after its launch in December 2006, and would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere around early March if no action were taken.

The strike is necessary to prevent the dispersal of around 450 kilograms of hazardous hydrazine thruster fuel onboard, according to James Jeffrey, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser. If the fuel survived re-entry, it could be dispersed over an area of roughly 20,000 square metres, although “the likelihood of the satellite falling in a populated area is small,” he says. “Nevertheless, if the satellite did fall in a populated area, there was the possibility of death or injury to human beings.” The Pentagon denies that the shoot-down is to protect classified technologies on the satellite.

But scientists familiar with both satellite re-entry and the US missile defence system question the decision. The chances that the tank, which is 1 metre in diameter, will survive and strike land are extremely small, says Geoffrey Forden, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “Most likely it will land in the ocean,” he says. The reasons given for the plan “don’t sound too credible to me”, he adds. “I think they’re doing it mainly to tell the Chinese that we can blow up a satellite too,” says Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “This gives the US cover to carry out a test.”

And I’m guessing that the corporate media will do their job to ensure that such cover is provided.


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    • OPOL on February 21, 2008 at 14:42

    is exactly what it was (IMHO).  The Chinese demonstrated that they could do it.  This was us saying we can too.

    The most disturbing part is that they can’t just come out and say it was a demonstration of our military capability and leave it at that – they have to fabricate an elaborate lie and propogate it all around the world.  I am sick to death of all the disgraceful lies our government tells.  It’s time for truth in America.

  1. vaguely connected with things falling . . .

    • ANKOSS on February 21, 2008 at 17:14

    Where to begin?

    Perhaps we should call this “Apollo 13” syndrome: the remanufacturing of failure into glorious success. The public has completely lost sight of the fact that the intercepted satellite was falling to Earth because it FAILED right after it was launched. This $500 million dollar piece of space junk was produced as a result of the collapse of competence that is now a hallmark of the Bush administration. For the last decade, US space reconnaissance projects have been behind schedule, over budget, and marred by repeated operational failures.

    So it is only fitting that the destruction of this fabulously expensive piece of orbital junk should be accomplished by another junk program: our Star Wars missile defense. Although the Navy’s interceptors work a bit better than the Air Force clunkers, the target discrimination problem has still not been solved. American idiots will not notice that a reconnaisance satellite the size of a bus makes an easier target that a nuclear warhead the size of a suitcase. Imagine the additional difficulty if the incoming warhead is surrounded by dozens of reflective decoys that look just the same as the live warhead on our tracking sensors. Of course, there are no decoys accompanying this junk satellite. So our Annie Oakley missile defense program just demonstrated the equivalent of hitting the side of a barn with a shotgun at ten paces.

    Just think about how bad things are in America when the government knows that the people are too stupid to understand what I have just described in the two paragraphs above. We are headed for some very bad times.

    • TMC on February 21, 2008 at 18:16

    by the gang who can’t shoot straight. Should anyone be surprised? And does anyone think that this isn’t a “flipping of the bird” to China and Russia?

  2. I’ll go you one further. The satellite was sabotaged and deliberately made to fail.

    Here’s what I wrote in an OND comment a few nights ago—

    All according to plan…

    Effort to Shoot Down Satellite Could Inform Military Strategy

    By Marc Kaufman and Walter Pincus, Washington Post

    The Bush administration’s attempt to shoot down an out-of-control spy satellite as early as this evening will help the military advance its anti-missile and anti-satellite planning and technology, according to space weapons experts and analysts. Both fields are of high interest to the military and of high concern for many other nations.

    While U.S. officials have depicted the attempt solely as a precaution against the slim chance that the satellite’s hazardous rocket fuel could harm people on Earth, the test will inherently have spillover military consequences, the experts said…

    I’m beginning to think this was planned in advance…

    According this NY Times story:

    In the case of the mysterious satellite that is about to plunge back to earth, Mr. Molczan had an early sense of which one it was, identifying it as USA-193, which gave out shortly after reaching space in December 2006. It is said to have been built by the Lockheed Martin Corporation and operated by the secretive National Reconnaissance Office.

    The satellite was launched a little more than a year ago… hrmmm… what was going on around that time…

    Well in January 2007, a Chinese test missile obliterates satellite. I’m guessing that the U.S. knew about the Chinese test at least the month before it happened.

    I wonder… hrmmm.

    Over at EuroTrib, afew noted the Russian’s aren’t buying the Bush administration’s cover story either.

    BBC News: US spy satellite plan ‘a cover’

    Russia has accused the US of using a plan to shoot down a broken spy satellite as a cover for testing an anti-satellite weapon…

    But Russia’s defence ministry said the US had not given enough information on the reasons for the decision.

    “Speculations about the danger of the satellite hide preparations for the classical testing of an anti-satellite weapon,” a statement reported by Itar-Tass news agency said.

    “Such testing essentially means the creation of a new type of strategic weapons,” it added.

    “The decision to destroy the American satellite does not look harmless as they try to claim, especially at a time when the US has been evading negotiations on the limitation of an arms race in outer space,” the statement continued.

    The Russian defence ministry argued that various countries’ spacecraft had crashed to Earth in the past, and many countries used toxic fuel in spacecraft, but this had never before merited such “extraordinary measures”.

    So, I think this was all according to plan.

    At this point, my only hope is that USA-193 wasn’t really a billion dollar spy satellite (I’ve not found a source to its cost and launch price tag) that failed, but just a million dollar target. The Pentagon spent  between $40 and $60 million to destroy the satellite. “The missile alone costs almost $10 million, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham said at a Pentagon briefing.”

    In the end this smoke-and-mirrors technology is the latest M-I-C boondoggle and sadly funny how this missile defense that is supposed to keep us “safe” only “works” when the weather and seas cooperate.

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