THE NEW HIGH GROUND: Systems and Weapons of Space Age War by Thomas Karas

THE NEW HIGH GROUND: Systems and Weapons of Space Age War

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According to journalist Karas, a bunch of latter-day Billy Mitchells are running around the Pentagon, sounding a call for space war. Today, the space age exists for the military mostly in the form of communications and surveillance satellites, and programs like the space shuttle. Karas' space cadets would like to see space turned into a combat zone and themselves transformed into combat officers, with laser beams and killer satellites for bullets. Karas is properly skeptical of this plan--given the technical difficulties, just finding the target is hard enough--and he also thinks (like others) that a lot of space gadgetry is a high-tech con job. The space shuttle, for example, shows the many possibilities for cost overruns and boondoggles as contractors and their Pentagon allies hype the military and commercial potential of their projects while cost-estimating them on an impossible, best-case scenario. (Rockwell promised to deliver the spaceship itself in six years at a cost of $2.6 billion; after six-and-a-half years, two-and-a-half years before its test-launching, the ship had cost $5.2 billion.) But waste, boondoggle, and the use of public money to promote private interests--of the defense industry, communications companies, or whatever--is nothing new. The communications and command purposes of space technology are not in question, and the combat uses don't seem very promising; so Karas' urgent tone is questionable. The combination of specialized, unselective information with exhortation also makes the book heavy going.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster