So it appears we have gone from the Stone Age to the Drone age, in the man – beast’s ultimate quest for superior, technological stupidity. In a way, it reminds me of the 1950’s atomic frenzy, “Yes, one day I’d own a nuclear lawn mower, which would never need fuel!” It’s the Frankenstein principle; we should know better, but we don’t. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. You can’t fight progress, but is this really progress? So let’s drone this and drone that, deliver up drones to deliver up pizzas. Microsoft drones which won’t fly correctly and will need a patch. Google drones watching everything and everyone, patched directly to any government agency with an alphabet title.

The Bush administration and Congress thought it would be a really cool idea to outsource our space program; the military however, did not. So while we’re planning our next peaceful steps in space at a dollar down and a dollar a week, the military is moving full speed ahead. The X-37 or XB-37 or whatever you want to call it, is a space drone. Now watch how the professionals launder money. In 1999, Boeing was awarded a contract to build an orbital test vehicle. Over the next four years, NASA would spend 109 million civilian dollars on the project, with the Air Force only kicking in $16 million. In 2004; control of the project was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Agency, here in known as DARPA.

Wait, where did our money go? The civilian space agency pays most of the freight and the military just walks away the spoils? Well yeah, that’s pretty much the size of it. Immediately after becoming property of DARPA, the XB-37 becomes a classified project. A tiny unmanned space shuttle not even 30 feet long, on a mission to…? Say, what was is its mission again? The military needs a robotic space drone, because why? Well, the answer is never you mind why, wiser and cooler heads have decided two things, they want this and never you mind why, because if we don’t, the bad guys will.

“Space, the final frontier, these are the voyages of the starship … gee, I guess it didn’t work out the way we thought, did it?”

But, back to the original question, why? To spy perhaps, to look obsessively for the things an obsessive state would look for? But the XB-37 is like the vegematic, “Wait, there’s more! It’s a spy plane! It’s an unstoppable, hypersonic vehicle, capable of carrying and delivering a nuclear weapon or two, anywhere on the globe in 45 minutes. Now unstoppable is a relative term, unstoppable unless, you have your own robotic space plane to shoot down our robotic space plane. It’s Dr. Strangelove meets the Red Baron and nobody’s paying attention.

There are treaties (Laws…who follows laws?) against weaponizing space, against placing nuclear weapons in space. Problem is, there’s no sheriff. Yes, we must trust to the good graces of US military to not do anything unlawful. Our level of trust so high, we do it on the honor system. More to the point, it’s the reason the space pioneers outlawed weapons in space, in the first place. The Air Force Space command explains the vehicle will be used to refuel spy satellites and do repairs with its robotic arm. Yet, the missions have extended to 469 days, 469 days for an orbiting gas station in space, washing the windshields and checking the oil on our satellites?

The vehicle has the capability of changing its orbit and pursuing, basically anything it likes. Now imagine; you’re a third world country or an emerging economy. You don’t have the money for space drones and might only have a miniscule presence in space. The XB-37 – becomes a bully in space, with the ability to cost you millions with no possible way to retaliate. Vote the way we suggest at the UN or your communications satellites might develop anomalies.

Let me show you what I mean. In November of 2012, the Russian space agency launched the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe. On its second earth orbit, while over the Marshall Islands, the probe’s electronics failed. The probe stuck in low earth orbit became a 165 million Rubles of useless, space junk.

Russian scientists immediately cried foul:

MOSCOW, January 17 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian government commission inquiring into why the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe crashed this week is to test whether it was affected after launch by U.S. radars on its second orbit around the Earth, the commission said on Tuesday. The investigators said that they would stage an experiment where a model Phobos will be subjected to radiation similar to that from U.S. radars.

‘Experts do not dismiss the possibility that the probe could have accidentally come under the impact of emissions [from a U.S. radar stationed on the Marshall Islands], whose megawatt impulse triggered the malfunctioning of on-board electronics,’ Russian business daily, Kommersant, said on Tuesday, citing an unnamed source in the country’s space industry as saying.

The source did not specify the type of radar, but said it was monitoring the trajectory of an asteroid at the time of the Phobos-Grunt launch.

It was only “Accidentally,” of course, the US military has been researching all sorts of particle and electron beams. We just happened to be swinging our radiation fist and the Russian satellite nose walked into it. What message does that send? Since, nuclear powers always disclose inter-continental launches in advance for obvious reasons. The accident theory doesn’t hold water; the US knew the Phobos-Grunt flight path. Yep, the Cold War is alive and well.

Space command doesn’t deny our beam hit the Russian probe, offering the explanation; “we were looking at a distant meteor.” It’s similar to the logic of stationing US missiles in Poland, to protect Europe from North Korea.

Personally, I think the military absconding with $109 million in NASA money is stealing from the till. It’s a small crime, an unnoticed blemish on the faceless blob of Imperial, Fascist government. Space piracy though, is something else. A pirate ship in outer space. “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Black Pearl. Its 469 day mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to bully, intimidate, vandalize, harass and if need be, to exterminate life on Earth. All to protect the dominance of the global Capitalist system and the hegemony of the US dollar.” You know, it’s that free market you’ve heard so much about.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say the we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. — John F. Kennedy

David Cox

David Cox