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Are there military space stations out there?


The Star Wars Era
An artist's concept of an interceptor -- a key element of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars).
An artist's concept of an interceptor -- a key element of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars).
Time Life Pictures/Department of Defense (DOD)/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

­In the 1980s, as NASA was just gearing up for the development of an international space station, the Pentagon was already eyeing the potential of a similar station for military operations. Such technology would complement the programs of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Military officials had the idea that a military space station could fuel Star Wars weapons, serve as a post to launch reconnaissance and battle missions, and act as a service station for space weapons. The military figured that it would be easier, and less expensive, to accomplish these tasks in space than on the ground.

At the time, a report by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics proposed that $1.8 million be spent to enhance the technology needed to develop a military spac­e station. They recommended the development of radiation protection, high-pressure suits for military astronauts, as well as shields and other defenses to protect against the laser attacks and nuclear bombs they anticipated would threaten the station. Not everyone in the government was onboard with the idea, though. Congressman Norman Y. Mineta introduced a bill in 1987 that would prohibit military use of the space station, arguing that "NASA's credibility is at risk" [source: New York Times].

The idea of a military space station as it was originally conceived never became a reality. Today, the International Space Station is fully operational, but for civilian, not military purposes. Though the Pentagon still looks to space, its interests lie more in protecting galactic assets from attack (especially by terrorists), rather than in launching military operations.

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To learn more about space stations, the Cold War and the space race, spy the links on the next page.


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