Prof. Karl Grossman, a professor of journalism at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury; and Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Thursday to give their thoughts on the Starliner’s botched voyage and how it parallels to the US’ long-term goal of militarizing space.
Gagnon told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that the Starliner is being touted as a success and stories are not noting the $4.2 billion price tag of the space program to taxpayers “because they know that they’ve wasted one hell of a lot of money.”
“Starliner hit the bullseye. It landed exactly where it was supposed to," a NASA commentator said during a broadcast following the spacecraft’s full return to Earth.
Awesome conclusion to the first Starliner mission. Landed within a few hundred meters of target. Systems checked out very well. No dock.... but many flight test objectives complete. This was a great @BoeingSpace day! pic.twitter.com/4fDH7252rd— Christopher Ferguson (@Astro_Ferg) December 22, 2019
Despite NASA and Boeing’s shared enthusiasm, in reality, the spacecraft completely failed its primary mission: docking with the International Space Station.
Grossman explained that while accidents do indeed happen, “in terms of rocket launches, one out of a hundred fail catastrophically,” and the issue is not always necessarily mechanical.
One clear example of this, according to the professor, occurred back in 1999 when engineers for NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter forgot to convert their measurements from English to metric units and ultimately caused the spacecraft to plummet and burn up in Mars’ atmosphere.
Even with this 1 in 100 failure rate and the potential for a catastrophic event, “there’s this big push to build nuclear-powered rockets for quicker trips to Mars,” Grossman said.
Gagnon argued that between the failures of missions such as the Starliner’s and the formation of the United States’ Space Force, the US’ sixth military branch, through the recent signing of the 2020 National Defence Authorization Act, “they have to pretend that everything is OK with these space technology operations.”
While the money to fund the US Space Force is now formally approved, other world powers have criticized the new military endeavor - which many argue is a clear violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
"The relevant US actions are a serious violation of the international consensus on the peaceful use of outer space, undermine global strategic balance and stability, and pose a direct threat to outer space peace and security,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Monday.
"Russia has always been and will remain opposed to the military use of space," Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month. "Leading nations of the world are actively developing modern space systems for military use … and the United States, in particular, is openly regarding space as a war theatre."
Nevertheless, Washington maintains that it must continue to “maintain American dominance” on every front.
"Our reliance on space-based capabilities has grown dramatically, and today outer space has evolved into a war-fighting domain of its own," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on December 20. “Maintaining American dominance in that domain is now the mission of the United States Space Force."
“The US is pushing the world, headlong, into making space an arena of war, and other countries will not stand for it,” Grossman contended.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.