SPACEWAR by David Ritchie


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A popular survey of the military implications of space technology--by the author of Ring of Fire (1981), a similarly-pitched review of seismic forces. It's not news that NASA, since its flowering after Sputnik, has had ties with the Dept. of Defense--a testy marriage in the halcyon days of Apollo, a more accepting alliance given the current need for military backing for the Shuttle budget. What Ritchie provides is a closer account of the early years (back to Goddard and PeenemÃœnde)--down to Air Force, Army, and civilian rivalries--and intervening developments. Back when Kennedy and Khrushchev had their standoff on Cuba, for example, reconaissance cameras on board a SAMOS satellite had already shown that vaunted Russian ICBM strength was but a tenth of US stockpiles. (Later in the decade, the films taken by Gemini cameras were so superb they were never revealed to the public.) Ritchie goes on to report rumor and fact as regards a variety of exotic weapons--from laser guns to Fractional Orbital Bombardment Systems (FOBS), reportedly being developed by one or both contenders in space. (China's increasing prowess is also documented.) Ritchie's conclusion: ""We face the likely extinction of America's non-military space program within the current decade--a chilling object lesson in what can happen when the lamb lies down with the lion."" Modest, approachable, and informative. For today's big time, see James Canan's War in Space (p. 706).

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum