S.O.S.: Save Outer Space

By Shirley Farlinger | 1985-11-01 12:00:00

The perfect answer to Star Wars has been found: It's called ISCOS - Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space. ISCOS was founded in 1983 to persuade scientists, strategists, and economists that world cooperation in space can give the United States what it wants - military security, political independence, and economic progress. And Carol Rosin, the institute's president, is out to convert the arms control folks before it's too late.

Rosin is not your average peacenik. She has a background in the corporate management of an aerospace company, Fairchild Industries, and is a space and defence consultant.

"I helped build the MX missile," she says, "and I know that the Strategic Defence Initiative will not eliminate nuclear weapons. In fact, the U.S. is already developing tactics and technology such as the B-1 penetrating bomber to evade SDI. Rosin is urgently concerned because SDI, by its very nature, supports a first-strike capability. Moreover, the new computer technology will further reduce the response time of war's hair-trigger. Since SDI is designed as a way to catch the enemy's missiles after they are launched, plans must be based on anticipations before the fact of the missiles leaving their silos. "These guys are getting itchy, she says.

Instead of continuing on the present course toward the extermination of life, Rosin wants us to focus on U.S.-USSR space cooperation. "They have the space platform and we have the shuttle," she notes. "It's a natural combination."

The idea dught not to be surprising. Even now the superpowers do cooperate in satellite search and rescue operations; they have worked together to save three hundred victims of air, sea, and other disasters. Over 200 American companies do business in the Soviet Union. Columbia University pulls in Russian satellite broadcasts and programs that are very popular on campus. So some cooperation is already a fact of life.

"Right now,' Rosin says, "three-fourths of all satellites are military, but that could change. The ATS-6, launched in 1974 by the U.S. at a cost of $180 millions provided the first two-way link-up for teachers and students in remote areas. It was loaned to India for one year, and 5000 ground stations were built to receive information on planting rice, irrigation, and family health and hygiene. It operated until 1977, when it was to be replaced and provided with one or two back-up satellites. Instead, the plan was cancelled and the money went to fund the A-10 bomber. "To diffuse the Russian threat through a leadership role in education would have done more for our security than weapons, she claims. "We must kill the SDI research program now and build a new momentum to develop space."

Many groups of scientists such as the Union of Concerned Scientists are objecting to global weaponization. About 200 Soviet and 100 American scientists signed the Carl Sagan document warning of nuclear winter. In Germany, 17,000 signatures of protest from scientists have been collected, and a campaign is developing in Australia and New Zealand to restrict the uses of outer space to peaceful purposes.

Rosin points out that satellites could help end the arms race because they provide the best means of verification of disarmament that have ever existed. One U.S. LANDSAT orbits the earth every 90 minutes, covering a swath 115 miles wide. In 18 days it inspects the entire globe; 2 percent of the time it is over U.S. soil and the rest of the time it is observing foreign territory. Verification is a reality. However, anti-satellite weapons launched in the air from F-15 planes will be difficult to monitor. Mindful of this, the House of Representatives has called for a moratorium on anti-satellite weapons testing.

"If the militarization of space goes forward it will close off space to other developments," Rosin asserts. Canada's North Warning System, for instance, would become part of SDI. Some countries such as Sweden are refusing to participate in Star Wars research. Others, such as those in the South Pacific, are considered essential for the American system of global bases; they are presenting political problems to the U.S. by demanding independence.

Not many members of Congress can be counted on to oppose U.S. military expansion, Rosin admits. The Pentagon's lobbying and personal phone calls from President Reagan have enabled most of the military proposals to be pushed through. "We are up against vested interests, the old military rhetoric, and a religious fundamentalist mindset," Rosin says. "We have done all we can in the peace protest movement. Now we need a different approach."

The protest movement has always operated independently of the wheels of industry, she claims, and even mass demonstrations like the tO,000 women's "Ribbon Around the Pentagon" will have little effect except to educate the women themselves. "But women are developing a boldness they haven't had before. We try to operate in a non-confrontational manner in ISCOS and cut through the structures with an honest, clear approach. This is the only chance we will ever have to put a lid on the space weapons race," she explains.

If the militarization of space goes into fast-forward, it will close off space to creative development, Rosin says. Among the projects ISCOS is suggesting are:

Space probes to obtain information from the planets and other solar systems.

There is also a job for the garbageman. About 10-15,000 scraps are tracked every day in space and there are estimated to be 40,000 bits of junk orbiting uselessly. But then, the military never have been notable for cleaning up after themselves.

Rosin is using satellite technology for peace now to hold "Global Town Hall" meetings like the one from California where fifteen cities in five countries have linked up to strategize politics. "What we really need in the U.S. is a globally-minded president." She is starting now to find and build support for this miracle worker during the next two years.

In the meantime Rosin says, "It's the wheels of industry - particularly the aerospace industry - we have to convert." She is producing a film, a documentary and slide show, The Fallacy of Star Wars, and a book on economic conversion and cooperation in outer space, tentatively titled Wake-up Call. In November she will travel to Geneva with other women who are gathering for the Reagan/Gorbachev summit meeting. The exclusion of women in negotiating, as well as in science and military fields, she sees as part of the problem.

The phone rings in her compact office near Capitol Hill and it's another debate with a peace group that supports the research phase of Star Wars. She finds this stance contradictory. To her, SDI research means weapons in space. "It won't protect one person, she says, "and once the weaponization of space begins it will be irreversible." Although supporters say SDI will not be nuclear, the Excalibur laser weapon is nuclear, she points out. In response to the claim that Russia is ahead she says, "At this point, Russian lasers have no military potential."

For her own part, Rosin has turned down a $1 million contract and a $1000 a day career to devote her time to the privately-funded institute. Support comes in letters and in cheques of $10-$10,000. Groups such as the Space Policy Working Group, War Control Planners, Inc., Women Strike for Peace, and International Association of Educators for World Peace are part of this initiative. There is even a testimonial from Dr. Spock. (Benjamin, not pointy-ears.) For her outspoken stance she has been told her life is in danger. As for phone tapping, she says, If they're bugging this office I hope they hear us.

Canada can take up the kind of work that Rosin is advocating. For example, there's the ISCOS proposal for a Global Information Complex. This would become the creative centre for space information to assist the global village with problems of food, clothing, housing, energy, clean environment, health, and education, as well as national security. Canada could be a good sponsor. After all, Canada was right behind the USSR and the U.S. when it launched AIuette I in 1962. This satellite continued to return data for over ten years. The Canadian Centre for Remote Sensing now gives data on crop inventory, forest and wildlife management, sea-ice surveying, mapping, and mineral and petroleum exploration. Our own Radarsat is planned for a late '80s launch and should contribute to maintaining our Arctic sovereignty. Since the U.S. always launches our satellites for us, they may have second thoughts about this one.

It was the Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly, with both the U.S. and USSR abstaining, which created the committee that did a feasibility study for a satellite to monitor and verify security agreements among all nations. Both superpowers acted to prevent the study's being put on the agenda for the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament II in June 1982 and the Vienna Conference (UNISPACE/82) on the peaceful uses of outer space: an odd form of superpower cooperation. However, the document has now been pul)lished in five languages entitled: The Implications of Establishing a Satellite Monitoring Agency (U.S. $12.50). It is available from the United Nations (E.83.IX.3).

Many believe that time is running out for the U.S. to disregard the cooperative initiatives of the rest of the world. ISCOS is affiliated with fifty groups in 130 countries around the world and Rosin hopes to add more as military leaders increasingly see SDI as a bad dream. Can those same leaders envision a U.S. shuttle/USSR Salyut linkup, with a Soviet cosmonaut flying a joint mission to a cooperative space station? This kind of Star Trek could be the long-awaited movement of modern technology toward solving modern problems. The question is: Is there intelligent life on Planet Earth -and is it intelligent enough to prevent human extinction?

ISCOS welcomes more ideas on the peaceful uses of outer space. Send your ideas to: ISCOS, 201 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Suite 102A, Washington, D.C. 20002.

An interesting article on this theme is Daniel Deudney's "Forging Missiles into Spaceships." It appeared in the Spring, 1985 issue of World Policy Journal.

Peace Magazine November 1985

Peace Magazine November 1985, page 13. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Shirley Farlinger here

Peace Magazine homepage