October 27, 2006

Panelists debate space weaponization

The Chicago Society hosted a debate entitled “Our Future in Space: Weaponizing the Final Frontier?” Monday at the Oriental Institute, featuring Dr. Peter R. Huessy, president of GeoStrategic Analysis, and Dr. Laura Grego, a Union of Concerned Scientists staff scientist at the Global Security Program.

The discussion drew about 100 community members. Event organizer and College second-year Matt Mutino introduced the debate’s topic by pointing to the Bush administration’s recently declassified space policy.

“Technology, whether in space or elsewhere, can have an enormous effect in protecting your freedom and your security,” he said.

Reviewing U.S. military history back to the Civil War, Huessy pointed to technological innovation as a key element of U.S. success.

“The idea that your adversaries are going to protect you when you don’t protect yourself is something to think about,” Huessy said.

Grego said she largely agreed with Huessy, though she held that “space weapons are a bad idea for the U.S. and for the rest of the world.”

Approaching the topic as a physicist, she debunked many popular conceptions of satellites’ abilities. For instance, she noted that on the popular television series 24, agents are able to have satellites moved in order to provide better vantage points, but “that’s artistic license.”

During the Q&A period, audience members grilled the panelists about U.S. military policy for North Korea and weapons proliferation. Asked what an ideal regime in space would look like, both speakers agreed that satellite launch and movement could be better regulated to decrease the chance of accidents.