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Authors: Ben Bova

Battle Station

BOOK: Battle Station
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“Space Weapons” copyright © 1985 by TSR, Inc.
“Nuclear Autumn” copyright © 1985 by Ben Bova.
“Freedom From Fear” copyright © 1984 by Davis Publications, Inc.
“Béisbol” copyright © 1985 by Davis Publications, Inc.
“The Jefferson Orbit” copyright © 1985 by Ben Bova.
“Isolation Area” copyright © 1984 by Mercury Press Inc.
“Space Station” copyright © 1985 by The Hearst Corp.
“Primary” copyright © 1984 by Davis Publications, Inc.
“Born Again” copyright © 1984 by Davis Publications, Inc.
“Laser Propulsion” copyright © 1984 by American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“The Sightseers” copyright © 1973 by Roger Elwood; copyright © 1978 by The Condé Nast Publications, Inc.
“Telefuture” copyright © 1985 by Omni Publications International, Ltd.
“Foeman” copyright © 1968 by Galaxy Publishing
Corp.; copyright © 1978 by The Condé Nast Publications, Inc.
“Symbolism in Science Fiction” copyright © 1984 by The Writer, Inc.
To Mike Gamble, from both of us.
Nobody wants to militarize space, but …
The fact is that the military was in space long before anyone else.
The first man-made objects to soar past the Earth's thin shell of atmosphere and enter the pristine domain of space were Nazi Germany's V-2 rockets, in 1944.
World War II ended in the twin mushroom clouds of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It did not take much imagination to realize that a nuclear weapon riding atop a long-range rocket made a formidable weapon —perhaps the “ultimate” weapon.
But by June of 1947 an eminent team of American scientists led by Dr. Vannevar Bush, of MIT, advised the U.S. government that it would be impossible to build rockets big enough and accurate enough to serve as long-range nuclear-armed missiles.
“I think we can leave that out of our thinking,” said the redoubtable Dr. Bush. “In my opinion, such a thing is impossible for many years.”
But three months
earlier
, the Soviet government authorized formation of a state commission to examine the feasibility of long-range ballistic missiles. Joseph Stalin told his Kremlin aides that a nuclear-armed missile “could be an effective straitjacket for that noisy shopkeeper, Truman. We must go ahead with it, comrades! The problem of the creation of
transcontinental rockets is of extreme importance to us.”
By 1949 the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb. By 1957 they sent the world's first artificial satellite into orbit, announcing to the world that Soviet rockets were large enough and accurate enough to drop a hydrogen bomb on any city in the world.
The military was in space.
Yes, the scientists followed with unmanned spacecraft that eventually explored all the worlds of the solar system, out to Uranus. (And in 1989
Voyager
II
will fly past Neptune, cameras clicking.)
Yes, the first man to set foot on the Moon was a civilian. So was the last man. The ten in between were U.S. Air Force and Navy fliers serving with NASA.
And while we were sending men to the Moon and machines beyond the edge of the solar system, while the United States was developing the space shuttle and the Soviets put a succession of space stations into low orbit around the Earth (two of them are up there now), the military was using the “high ground” of space for its own purposes: communicatons, surveillance, weather observation, navigation, geodesy.
In 1967 the United States and the Soviet Union, together with sixty-one other nations, signed the Outer Space Treaty, which, among other things, bans nuclear weapons from space and guarantees that the Moon will not be used for military purposes.
But weapons have flown in space. The Soviets tested an orbital bombardment system before the ink was dry on the 1967 treaty. And they have developed an operational antisatellite weapon capable of destroying satellites in orbits as high as twelve hundred miles.
Both nations have worked on space-based defenses against that “ultimate” weapon, the hydrogen-bomb-carrying
intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The American Strategic Defense Initiative program has received enormous publicity, and has been the center of a raging controversy ever since President Reagan startled the world with his “Star Wars” speech in March 1983. Soviet work in strategic defenses has been much quieter, but equally intense.
Why fortify heaven? Why extend human aggression into space?
You might as well ask, Why have navies? Why have armed fleets steaming in the world's oceans?
Every major nation on Earth maintains a navy to protect its seacoasts and its maritime commerce from enemies, real and potential. Navies and war fleets have been with us for so many millennia that we never hear people say, “Let's keep the oceans free of weaponry! Don't militarize the seas!”
In fact, sometimes it is comforting to know that there are “good guys” out there on the high seas, willing and able to help or protect you if you need it. In a world of hijackers, pirates, and natural emergencies such as hurricanes, disciplined naval personnel can be the difference between life and death.
So it will be with space. If my vision of the future is correct (and it's a vision I share with many men and women, both science fiction people and “mundanes”), much of the human race's next generation of commerce and wealth will be space-based. Where your purse is, there your thieves will be also—small-time thieves such as pirates, and bigger thieves, too. The kind of people who can steal a country probably will not blanch at stealing whole worlds. Or trying to.
Even if you believe that the only legitimate purpose for a nation's armed forces is to protect the nation against attack, it must be admitted that
every square inch of land in the world is open to attack from space.
ICBMs soar above the atmosphere and dive down on their targets from space.
The military is in space to stay. The question is, Can the competing nations of Earth learn to cooperate enough in this new environment of space so that their military forces can work together to prevent aggression on Earth? Satellites orbit around the whole world; they can be used to protect every nation against attack by any nation or any subnational group.
The answer to that question will determine whether or not the twenty-first century is an era of peace. If it is not, perhaps there is not much of a future for the human race, after all.
But I am an optimist, as those of you who read my collection
Prometheans
know full well. I see the military cooperating in space, evolving into an International Peacekeeping Force that will play the role of an honest cop in orbit and prevent the nations of the world from destroying one another.
The sixteen stories and articles in this book deal with the prospects of war and peace in orbit, together with other glimpses of possible futures. Most of them treat directly with the military aspects of space. Others are devoted to allied facets of the human race's expansion into the solar system.
The nonfiction articles are based on the latest factual information available at the time of their writing, interpreted through my own experiences and opinions. The fiction shows what mere facts cannot: how tomorrow's technology will affect individual human lives.
The great strength of science fiction is that it can show the
human
future, it can deal with the emotions that tomorrow's changes will stir. But without a solid basis in factual science and technology, fiction about the future becomes fantasy and loses its power to
prepare us for the real world that awaits us with the next dawn.
In the sixteen works assembled here you will see:
• How an International Peacekeeping Force might actually work—even when betrayed from within.
• How energy projectors firing pinpoint beams of light may spell doom for the “ultimate” weapon.
• How baseball may become a tool of international diplomacy.
• How a new method of generating electrical power could cut your electricity bill in half—and supply the power for space-borne energy beam weapons.
• How computers may one day replace politicians.
• How telephones may become small enough to be implanted in your skull.
• How benign extraterrestrials may have already influenced human history.
• How space stations in orbit will include zero-gravity hospitals—and honeymoon hotels.
Nobody wants the military in space. But they will be there. They are already there. If we are wise, we will see to it that they serve to protect the peace and defend the human race against attack.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote, “The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
 
—Ben Bova
West Hartford, Conn.
March 1987
BOOK: Battle Station
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