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Truth versus Guns

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Star Wars, a Contradiction
Until the war problem is solved at home
 a significant space presence cannot be achieved by any people
whereby the door to space remains closed.

Rolf A. F. Witzsche - May 20, 2006

Science fiction has served mankind well by exploring the potentials of technologies long before they can be realized, if indeed some ever will be realized. However there is one major aspect that seems to pervade nearly all modern space related science fiction which is scientifically impossible, and that is the combination of space travel and war. 

I am not talking about faster-than-light-speed travel as being impossibe. The nominal speed of light has supposedly already been superseded in laboratory experiments. Nor am I talking about artificial gravity, and antimatter propulsion. All these things are possible. Antimatter has bee demonstrated to exist. Its powerful reaction with matter has been experienced in massive ways. Only its containment has so far not yet been achieved, which might be be achieved in the not-so-distant future. What I am talking about as impossible is the war aspect of star wars fantasies, the wars in space.

Space flight is an enormously complex technological achievement and requires for its success a highly developed and capable economic and cultural infrastructure. A warlike society, as our current imperial society is that is dedicated to looting, enslavement, profiteering, and cultural devolution to protect empires, can never create the resources for any substantial space flight capability. A warlike society is dedicated to destroying itself. Unless society steps beyond the inherently self-destructive platform that involves imperial fascism that culminates into war, its gate to space flight remains closed as a matter of principle, and that principle would be the same universally.

America had once achieved a great space-flight capability with its lunar-landing program. America even brought its 'automobile' along to drive around on the moon to extend the range of its surface exploration. America inspired the whole world with a profound optimism with what it achieved in space. But then came the cycles of war, starting with Vietnam, and in the shadow of these wars the gate to space became closed step by step. The moon is off-limits now. The industries no longer exist that got us there. The industries weren't destroyed by acts of war directly. They were dismantled in the wave of greed-based fascism that 'inspires' war. Profit demands and imperial ideology opened the bottom to deindustrialization though which society's technological potential quietly drains away. That has been mankind's experience.

NASA gave the world another first in space capability, the Space Shuttle, a remarkable exploration tool for near Earth work. NASA tells us that it will fly its 100th space shuttle mission in 2006, a historic milestone for a "workhorse that has taken over 600 passengers and 1.36 million kilograms (3 million pounds) of cargo to orbit. The shuttle fleet has spent almost a total of 2 years in space. " 

But the shuttle is 25 years old. It flew its first mission on April 12, 1981.  It should have been replaced ages ago. Indeed, several times plans have been put forward to do this, but with war after war sapping the nation's resources, the most productive element of our humanity, mankind's exploration and scientific and technological development falls by the wayside. Still, America is determined to keep its shuttle fleet flying, if need be until the wheels fall off. However, this scaling back is costly. The space shuttle system is presently considered unsafe to service the Hubble Space Telescope, which is thereby condemned to death. Likewise with the Iraq-war costs mounting towards a possible two trillion dollars, the funds for a robot service mission of the Hubble have been denied. When when the Hubble's batteries and gyros begin to fail in 2007 or 2008 mankind's deep-space eye to the universe becomes partially blinded again as a casualty of war. 

NASA is telling us that it intents to keep the space shuttle fleet alive for at least another decade. Towards this end major safety upgrades were applied in 2005, but not enough to enable the space shuttle to used for such routine maintenance missions as servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. It appears that the shuttle is being kept afloat as a facade while the Space Program is essentially put on hold for the lack of funds.

The Russian Mir Space Station suffered a similar fate as that which awaits the Hubble. Mir was launched on January 20, 1986 and became the world's greatest scientific exploration undertaking in Earth's orbit up to this time. Over a hundred missions were launched to the station, including several American Space Shuttle missions. However, with the break-up of the Soviet Union after years of subversion from the West, and the subsequent deep looting of Russia and the destruction of its productive economy by the imposition of the  IMF's economic shocks, the funds and the industrial resources were no longer available to maintain the Mir station. Even the plea by the head of the Duma (without funds attached) couldn't avert the station's fate, its controlled de-orbiting and thereby total destruction. With its burn-up in the atmosphere on March 23, 2001 another brilliant chapter in mankind's space-flight history ended with a tragic finality caused by the overbearing weight of imperial imposition and cultural warfare. 

This time the killing wasn't caused by direct open war. What killed the pioneering Mir space-endeavour in the year of its 15th anniversary was the weight of the looting empire that kills science and technology universally and causes all the world's wars that become ever more openly designed for looting profits out of society. In this larger sense the Mir station was killed by a war, the kind of war that is still ongoing.

The International Space Station was started twelve years after Mir, in 1998, in cooperation with 16 countries. It had gown to a stage almost comparable in size with Mir in 2001 when Mir was brought down. The International Space Station will of course be several times larger when fully built, if war doesn't get into the way and the funding stops once again. To date it has come a long way towards that goal. Certainly the human spirit of exploration will continue. If the exploration process continues unimpeated by war, the sky itself is the limit and that limit has not yet been encountered.

Skylab was the USA's first and only pioneering effort in terms of an orbiting space station laboratory, giving America a permanent space presence before anyone else. Skylab was launched May 14, 1973. However, its presence was brief because of funding restraints. Skylab was allowed to crash back into the atmosphere in 1979 since America's Space Shuttle that should have kept the lab maintained had been delayed and additional funding was not available to launch a robot rescue mission to boost the lab into a higher orbit to keep it alive.  

Ironically, the Skylab itself was the result of the shutting down the Apollo lunar missions, which were terminated to save costs. One of the Apollo pre-built booster rockets was used to launch Skylab into orbit in 1973. 

The 1970s had been a terrible decade for mankind in which the massive imperial attack on science, and scientific and technological progress began, together with the imperial drive for deindustrialization. And that insanity was itself prefixed with the imperial dehumanizing headlines that grew ever bolder in the late-1960s that "the Earth has cancer, and that cancer is man." Depopulation was loudly heralded as a panacea, and imperial war was on the table to get it started. The Vietnam War became the staging ground for the coveted dehumanizing destruction. 

All of that began in the early 1960s. It began quietly. Only a few people could foresee the horrors of this tend, and one man from among those few stood before the world and proposed extraordinary measures to pull mankind into a new direction, to enable it to experience the greatness of its potential.

The American Space Program came into being as a bold countermeasure to the speading dehumanizing mania that eventually culminated into defining man as a cancer on the Earth. And the space effort did achieve its 'miracles' certainly in what it became technologically, even in the background to the widening Vietnam War. 

The American Space Program began with President Kennedy's Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs on May 25, 1961.  He said, " I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

He added a year later (September 12, 1962) in a speech at Rice University in Texas, "we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not only because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." And he added, "To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money....  more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority--even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold."

Thus began the Apollo Space Program. the boldest technological adventure the world had ever seen in its entire history. (Also see: Apollo website of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). Six of the Apollo missions (Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17) achieved the stated goal to land human beings on the Moon and bring them safely back to Earth. Earlier missions. The preceding missions (Apollos 7 and 9) were Earth orbiting missions to test the Command and Lunar Modules, and other missions  (Apollos 8 and 10)  tested various components while orbiting the Moon and returned photography of the lunar surface. Apollo 13 did not land on the Moon due to a malfunction, but it also returned photographs. The six missions that landed on the Moon returned a wealth of scientific data and almost 400 kilograms of lunar samples. Experiments included soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields, and solar wind experiments The moon landing missions flew between July 20, 1969 (Apollo 11) and December 11, 1972 (Apollo 17). The last three landing missions (Apollo 18, 19, and 20 - the last third of the Apollo exploration program) were cancelled due to budget restrained. 

After Apollo 17 made America's last moon landing on December 11, 1972  the tide turned sharply against science and exploration. On December 13, the Paris Peace Talks between North Vietnam and America break down and a major escalation of the Vietnam War is unleashed. On December 18, one day before Apollo 17 returns to Earth, by order of the US President, a new bombing campaign begins against North Vietnam, called Operation Linebacker Two. The bombing campaign lasts for 12 days.

It involved among other aircraft, 120 B-52 bombers that dropped 20,000 tones of bombs on North Vietnam. The space budget was no longer a priority from this point on. War became primary. Two weeks later North Vietnam's airfields, transport and supply infrastructures, and numerous targets in and around Hanoi and Haiphong, were all reduced to rubble. A total of 26 U.S. planes were lost in the ensuing orgy of destruction, 93 airmen were killed, captured or missing, and North Vietnam reported between 1,300 and 1,600 dead. Nevertheless the war continued for another 28 months, almost as long as it had taken to carry out all of America's moon landing missions. 

It is not hard to imagine what a brighter world we would have today, and what greater advances in space would have been wrought by now if the Vietnam War had been shut down, instead of the Apollo missions, so that the space program had continued as it was once envisioned.  

President Kennedy never saw the tremendous success that had nevertheless been achieved by his vision and leadership, which had inspired the nation towards a great accomplishment. President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, a few days after he had ordered the start of the withdrawal from Vietnam.  But his vision for mankind's great potential didn't didn't die with the  assassination. After just another three years of tremendous effort by countless people, NASA's Apollo 11 mission touched down on the moon and six more missions followed. 

Tragically, President Kennedy's wish for the withdrawal from Vietnam was not fulfilled. His order to withdraw was countermanded and the war was escalated instead. The war was fully cranked up a year after the President's assassination. America's infamous Golf of Tonkin self-provocation opened the flood gates to war and the destruction that turned the tide against science, technology, and mankind's advances in space. 

It was evidently the mounting cost of the Vietnam War that terminated the Apollo moon landing program after it had only been two-thirds completed. The war raged on for nearly another three years past the termination of the Apollo program. The Vietnam War finally ended on April 30, 1975, with 58,000 Americans killed, 304,000 wounded, out of 3 million Americans that were engaged in the war, together with 1.5 million Vietnamese soldiers that were killed whose numbers are dwarfed by the staggering 4 million of the civilian population killed and injuries that are far too many to be counted. (See, Vietnam Facts). 

The Vietnam War was started officially to thwart communism. When it ended nobody really knew why it was done. The effects were too horrendous. The great optimism that the Apollo space program had generated among the whole of humanity, with human beings walking and working on another celestial body in space - "the great step for mankind" that America took as mankind's pioneer - was crushed with a demoralizing shock in which the American nation and humanity as a whole were the ultimate victims.

The space program 'limped' along after that in the background to this tragedy. Skylab was launched with left-over hardware. It lasted for six years until it could no longer be maintained for the lack of funding. The Space Shuttle that had been planned to service the lab was delayed until 1981, far too late to save Skylab that subsequently crashed back to earth in 1979. 

It took mankind ten years to fully discover from the Vietnam-War shock and regain its technological optimism and its foothold in space. This revival happened with the launching of the Mir Space Station in Russia on January 20, 1986. For America itself, it would take another 12 years to regain a foothold in space with the International Space Station. America had the space truck developed (the space shuttle) for America's future in space, but it had no permanent presence in space until the International Space Station became a reality in 1998.

Now the space truck system is aging and can no longer be used to service the space hardware (such as the Hubble) that it had once set up. Nor is there a new shuttle on the horizon with more and more wars wrecking the world. America will try to get back to the moon in 2018, more than 43 years after the Apollo program was terminated, provided that the USA still exists by then and hasn't itself become destroyed by its wars. And even if the planned new moon landing happens, the envisioned mission for getting back to the moon is a less 'elegant' one than that of the Apollo project. 

While NASA still exists optimistically, it is operating on a skeleton basis. Space exploration is far down near the end of its national priority list. Nuclear war is on top. We will soon see the planned bombing of Ian happening, if it cannot be prevented. This new war is prepared to include nuclear weapons and a possible 50-fold increase in the use of depleted uranium (DU) bombs and munitions with consequences that few people will likely survive.

Most likely, even if the planned new war is successfully prevented, it may take America far beyond the 2018 date to get back to the moon. It may take America more than a decade from its present level of deep destruction to rebuild its economic, technological, and industrial infrastructures that are required to get back to the moon. With war still raging and new wars on the horizon, getting back to the moon and to build a permanent station there appears more like a dream. Those extraordinary efforts - while they would save the nation and the world from the crushing insanity that rules today's world - can't be carried out in a war-torn and collapsing economic environment. America isn't even willing at the present time to commit the needed resources to rebuild the storm damaged city of New Orleans or to admit the neglect and under-funding that caused most of the damage. While this tragedy continues no one bats an eye about pouring trillions into war. And so, space and scientific discovery and exploration, together with civil recovery, get the short end of the stick. America is willing to let entire cities die, and not just New New Orleans, just as it it is willing to let the Hubble die for lack of funding in its world imperial quests and the resulting wars.  

The process of war, and the insanity of allowing it, is killing the human society both in the zones of battle where the wars are waged, where the casualties are ranging into the millions, and at home where civilization decays and society is ground into impotence. War is the universal destroyer, and the first casualty of its destruction is science, technology, and space research funding, unless of course science-funding serves the war. 

It is one of the great fallacies of our time to imagine that wars would be encountered in space. Any people, whoever they might be, us included, would have to solve the war-problem at home before the door to space opens to them, or else the door to space would remain closed as we are presently experiencing in our own world.

Rolf A. F. Witzsche, is an independent researcher, publisher, and author of eleven novels. The novels are focused on exploring the Principle of Universal Love, the principle that is reflected to some degree in every bright period throughout history with the added challenge for today to give our universal love an active expression in a type of ' Universal Kiss' for all mankind.

Novels by Rolf Witzsche

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