More on the militarization of space. Lee is defense and foreign affairs correspondent for the BBC and author of The Final...



More on the militarization of space. Lee is defense and foreign affairs correspondent for the BBC and author of The Final Decade: Will We Survive the Eighties? Since we almost have, Lee's scare tactics are suspect. In his current offering, he makes another attempt at painting a bleak picture of the future. He starts, though, with a conventional history of East-West competition in space, beginning on October 4, 1957, when the Russians launched Sputnik I. The race was on, beginning an orgy of launches from both sides. Between 1959 and 1960 alone, the US launched 14 satellites in the Discoverer series, while the Soviets, going for quality, launched several Luna moon probes. Later, while the eyes of the world focused on the dramatic manned missions, Lee recounts how ""the heavy thumb-print of the military and defense satellites, however well-disguised, stood out like sore thumbs in the yearly lists of launchings."" Lee describes the eight types of military spacecraft: photographic reconnaissance satellites, electronic reconnaissance (ELINT), ocean surveillance, communication, early warning, navigation, meteorologic, and geodetic satellites. With these ""eyes in the skies,"" both sides have the ability from 200 miles above the earth to photograph objects on the ground and identify them clearly even if less than 30 centimeters wide. (Approximately four out of every 10 satellites are of the photo-reconnaissance variety.) ELINT satellites seek and monitor signals from each other's military and ground-to-air communications, air defense frequencies, radars, and missile test signals. Lee recommends that regional observation groups be formed of neutral states--France, for instance, could be the leader in Europe, Japan in Asia. The leaders would send up their own satellites capable of military eavesdropping to keep a rein on the superpowers (who would keep a rein on them?). The idea, however, seems more pie-in-the-sky than anything; France suggested such an idea years ago and it was met with benign neglect. Fairly detailed account of the superpowers' space programs, but familiar stuff withal.

Pub Date: March 1, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987

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