More exciting, semi-non-news documents released by Wikileaks have revealed that China and the US, in a “mutual show of military strength” used missiles to blow up their own satellites! Actually the blowing shit up part isn’t news, that happened two or three years ago, well covered by the press. But WHY they both blew up their respective satellites has been more clearly revealed: basically, it’s Regan’s ‘Star Wars’ all over again!
In 2007, the Chinese blew up their Fengyun-1C weather satellite with a ballistic missile. This explosion, which also made China the number one space junk producer, sparked a “secret space war”, according to documents released by Wikileaks. From the cable:
The United States reserves the right, consistent with the UN Charter and international law, to defend and protect its space systems with a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military.
…The inadequate nature of China’s response to our January 15, 2007, demarche and your government’s continued unwillingness to provide a full explanation for its actions call into question China’s intentions in space and undermines trust.
…The United States has not conducted an anti-satellite test since 1985. The Cold War is over and the world economy is now significantly more dependent on Low Earth Orbit satellites than it was in 1985. That is why so many countries have expressed concern about the Chinese test.
The US eventually responded by blowing up their own satellite in 2008, using the excuse that they needed to remove a faulty and potentially dangerous satellite from orbit. The cables supposedly confirm that this was in fact an “anti-satellite” test, military in nature.
A series of aggravated diplomatic discourse followed (from the Telegraph):
The strike marked the high point of tensions between Washington and Beijing over the issue of ballistic missile defence. The cables show that China was deeply concerned about America’s plans to place missile defence radars in Japan.
Another document discloses that the US was allegedly developing an “airborne laser system” to counter the threat from “Chinese military build up”.
In response to the cables, a Pentagon spokesman denied the claims that the operation was an anti-satellite test, and insisted that “Our missile defense systems are not intended or designed to engage satellites.”
Both sides have condemned the other’s activities, and both sides have denied any military intent of their own. The most recent cable revealed that China conducted further missile tests by using one type of missile to destroy another almost 150 miles above the earth. Whether the US has conducted similar tests remains to be seen (maybe.)
I think we can all agree that any kind of weapons race involving space is a decidedly stupid idea, and hinders one of the few undertakings that usually serves to bring people together rather than pull them apart: humankind’s advancing exploration of, and fascination with, the great unknown.
Made in China: Space Junk
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