Moongrabber

No, that’s not the next Bond film, but the clueless fantasy of a physics professor in Coloradoalifornia:

Other concerns bubbling over private space travel are that it will increase the amount of space debris and the potential weaponization and militarization of space.

Williams said that “whatever nation controls the moon controls the Earth.”

“If you had a moon base with space weapons, you could control all the launches on Earth,” she said.

Really? Even the ones when the moon is on the other side of the earth? How would one go about that? What kind of “space weapons” is she talking about? How does one prevent anything from happening on earth from a location that is days away? And this is a professor of physics?

It gets worse:

The Outer Space Treaty states that each nation retains jurisdiction over its citizens should they perform activities in space. So the U.S. would not only govern Golden Spikes’ operations, it would be liable in the event of a catastrophic accident.

“Should the common U.S. man and woman, the 99 percent, pay for the costs and risks of the ‘space happy’ dreams of billionaires?” said Williams, who sits on the board of directors of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

A report released this year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office pegs potential federal liability for third-party claims tied to commercial space exploration at $2.7 billion.

“We need to engage in a national dialogue on the risks and costs of commercial space travel before private space corporations and their rich clients can take and make them at U.S. taxpayers’ expense,” Williams said.

What “catastrophic accident” is being fantasized here that isn’t already a risk with other commercial launches? No one would be harmed if there were an accident on the moon, other than members of the expedition. The U.S. is not liable for them — only for uninvolved third parties. The taxpayer isn’t on the hook for this at all, other than the standard launch indemnity. I’m all for a national dialogue, but I don’t expect one, and if there is one, I hope that it’s led by people more informed than Professor Williams.

30 thoughts on “Moongrabber

  1. Slim Jim

    I like it. This 99% talk is becoming an intoxicating hysteria that whips itself into new arenas daily; eventually everyone will get sick of how intrusive it is.

  2. Sigivald

    Free people are terrifying.

    They don’t follow Plans, after all.

    (And it’s hilarious that she thinks the Outer Space Treaty is worth more than the paper it’s written on … the first time a State thinks that they benefit from “militarizing” space, they’re going to do it, period.)

    1. Edward Wright

      the first time a State thinks that they benefit from “militarizing” space, they’re going to do it, period.

      Wrong verb tense. The Nazis did it in 1943. (Defining “space weapons” to exclude ballistic missiles is a bizarre assumption of the arms-control community with no basis in fact.)

  3. T.L. James

    said Williams, who sits on the board of directors of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

    He’s a Gnaw-‘n-Pisser, which makes him a colleague/sympathizer of Bruce Gagnon. I thought I recognized the same sort of thinking in that “controlling launches on Earth” bit – Bruce has repeatedly claimed that there are shipping lanes to space, which space weaponry (defined as any object placed in space by humans) can control.

    Maybe this sad excuse for a physics professor is where Bruce got his fanciful notion. I wonder if the good professor also frets like Bruce about RTGs contaminating space with radiation.

  4. C Hirner

    Williams published this: Irrational Dreams of Space Colonization
    Lynda Williams, Peace Review, a Journal of Social Justice, The New Arms Race in Outer Space (22.1, Spring 2010).

    So, we have a physics professor blinded by the ideology of “social justice”.

    Kalifornia indeed.

  5. Thomas Matula

    Not surprised. There is a very strong belief that space is only about science. “Pure and noble”

    Actually that was also true about flight about a hundred years ago, until Italy started dropping bombs from planes. Then attitudes quickly changed and aviation technology leaped forward going from wooden kites to supersonic jet fighters in only 40 years.

    BTW for the record, the first bomb dropped from a plane was on Libya near Tripoli in 1911, showing how in some aspects the world hasn’t changed much in 100 years :-)

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/03/21/134735395/100-years-ago-the-first-aerial-bomb-fell-over-libya

    100 Years Ago, World’s First Aerial Bomb Dropped Over Libya

    by Eyder Peralta
    March 21, 201112:49 PM

  6. Charles Lurio

    Insofar as the couple of day time lag in “controlling” Earth with missiles from the Moon, she’s probably a nuclear physicist and is invoking “spooky-action-at-a-distance.” ;-)

    More soberly, didn’t the US military figure out that the Lunar high ground wasn’t valuable in this fashion some decades ago? Everything gets forgotten by the next generation, or the one after.

    1. George Turner

      I think we figured that out in the 1950’s. You might as well try to build a nuclear deterent by putting atomic-bomb hurling catapults on steamships.

      And God forbid that we allow anything radioactive to get into space, which is already as radioactive as any post-apocalyptic nightmare with cannibals and talking dogs.

      1. cthulhu

        The dog didn’t actually talk, it was telepathy. And it wasn’t cannibalism, because Vic didn’t eat, he just fed Blood (the dog).

        Ellison is one cranky SOB, but a helluva writer.

    2. Edward Wright

      More soberly, didn’t the US military figure out that the Lunar high ground wasn’t valuable

      No, they figured out that Kennedy wasn’t going to allow the military to put humans in space. That was a political decision, not a military one.

      There’s no point in thinking about moonbases when you’re not even allowed to go into orbit.

      During the SDI era, there was serious talk about using lunar materials to armor LEO battle stations — again, dropped for political reasons.

      1. Charles Lurio

        Ed, I said “wasn’t valuable _in this fashion_”, i.e. what the Professor thinks.

        I’m well aware of the fact that there could have been military applications had not certain decisions been made – just not what she burbled about.

  7. Edward Wright

    Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

    Here’s the key.

    As G. Harry Stine pointed out, a weapon is any system capable of having a physical, chemical, biological, or psychological effect on an enemy or his property.

    The difference between a weapon and a tool is primarily one of intent. A meaningful ban on space weapons would have to ban all useful activity in space.

    1. Karl Hallowell

      I wonder if they’ll want to ban space-based fusion power as well. You can do some wicked things with that, such as magnifying glass versus ants.

  8. Edward Wright

    This, apparently, is what she’s worried about.

    http://www.scientainment.com/spaceecology.pdf

    Space tourism, missile defense, anti-satellite weapons testing and a looming weapons race are going to contribute to the growing problem of space junk. Although, “if space does become sufficiently trashed, the reflection of sunlight by the junk could possibly have a net cooling effect on the Earth and solve the global warming problem.”

    She’s opposed to missile defense because detonating a nuclear weapon in space would harm satellites. Allowing it to fall on Washington or New York City would, presumably, cause no environmental problems at all. Not to mention that a nuclear weapon won’t just go off if you hit it (unless it’s salvage fused).

    Oh, and that Chinese weapons test — it was Bush’s fault! He should have asked China to stop it!

    I don’t think “physics professor” is correct, either. The Santa Rosa Junior College website lists her as “faculty” and “instructor.”

  9. Pouncer

    I blame Heinlein. This meme from “Harsh Mistress” is like the anti-nuke crusaders who get their notions from “Blowups Happen” and pro-solar activists who like “Roads Must Roll” and the infant-stem-cell believers who remember the end of “Methuselah’s Children”. Heinlein as seen by people who fancy themselves pro-science, but can’t be bothered with math.

    1. cthulhu

      It’s not TMIAHM that’s at fault; it’s primarily the short story The Long Watch. “Throwing rocks” a la TMIAHM is perfectly sound, given the postulated mass driver infrastructure that is (in the novel) being used to ship grain to Earth. The Long Watch, although a moving story about adhering to a higher duty regardless of the sacrifice, is quite outdated with its backstory.

  10. Godzilla

    Other concerns bubbling over private space travel are that it will increase the amount of space debris and the potential weaponization and militarization of space.

    Duh. If there was cheaper and more readily available access to space it would be easier to clean up the debris as well.

    How does weaponization and militarization of space follow from private development? That’s clearly a non-sequitur.

    Nuts.

    1. Edward Wright

      How does weaponization and militarization of space follow from private development? That’s clearly a non-sequitur.

      Nope. You said it yourself. “If there was cheaper and more readily available access to space it would be easier to clean up the debris as well.”

      Any system that clean up space debris can “clean up” an enemy satellite just as easily.

      Also, the natural evolution of space weapons will be toward systems with greater precision and less collateral damage. That point is lost on the “arms control” community.

      You said “weaponization and militarization” like it was a bad thing.

      1. Godzilla

        You said “weaponization and militarization” like it was a bad thing.

        Hardly. I was just using the same words verbatim as the piece. FWIW I think we should be using nuclear pulse propulsion and we should have orbital bombers by now. Nuclear pulse propulsion is our only presently viable option for doing an interstellar flight. Orbital bombers would have essentially unlimited loiter time for all purposes.

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