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One of the most pressing problems to travel outside the atmosphere of the Earth is the possibility that any vehicle containing the life support systems necessary to sustain human life on any journey through the vast emptiness of space will sustain puncture damage to its hull. The possibility existed before man made the first tentative steps from the ground but then the danger was from rocks, ice and debris that surround most planets, debris prevented from falling to the surface of the planets by gravitational fields of force and/or their atmospheres. It had been that way for millions of years dating back to a time before there were any planets but as man stepped into space he took with him a blight that has been a threat to his existence on Earth since he came down from the trees. He began to pollute space with that which was no longer of any use to him, just as he had done on Earth. Mans exploration of space has been in progress for little more than half a century but in that time the “Science” that took him from his Earthbound roots to the nearest object that was not terrestrial The Moon has left space littered with junk that is fast becoming a threat to any future launches of orbital craft. There are at present in excess of nine thousand objects of space junk floating around in low Earth orbit any one of which poses a threat of damage to any new mission leaving the Earth. More than half of the objects of space junk were launched from the former USSR, somewhat less than half are of USA origins and the remainder can be attributed to India, The UK, Japan, China and several other smaller nations.

Recently a ballistic rocket was launched from China, which was to mimic previous missions carried out by both the USSR and The USA. Its mission was to destroy an obsolete Chinese weather satellite orbiting five hundred miles above the Earth. The mission was successful and it did destroy the satellite but perhaps “Destroy” creates the illusion that it no longer exists. That would be a mistaken ideal for when the ballistic missile found its target the resultant explosion shattered both the obsolete weather satellite and the ballistic missile into thousands of fragments all of which became a new threat to interplanetary travel.  A point made by both super powers when they ceased to target obsolete space junk many years ago. China with a blatant disregard for any other expatriate Earth projects felt it necessary to demonstrate that it too possessed the technology to achieve the destruction of an object in the vast expanse of space at the expense of any future missions and the inhabitants of the International Space Station. The aims of the Chinese mission were no more than to demonstrate that China could do it too.
Whilst the fear in White House analytical circles regards the “Experiment” as a mask outwardly professing to destroy a piece of obsolete Chinese space junk those same analysts are now very aware that China now has the capability to render any or all of the US communications or GPS satellites inoperative should they choose to do so at a moments notice. China however have issued a statement to all protestant parties who lodged protests following the “Experiment” that China has no ambitions in that direction nor does it intend to further militarise low orbit space as the USA have done previously. Requests for clarification of China’s true intent came from Canada; The USA; Australia; Japan; India and The UK following the “Chinese Experiment” All of whom have vested interests in low-orbit militaristic communications satellites with a GPS capability. The chief concern being that if there was a Sino-agenda to render Western military information nets “Null and void” then this “Experiment” would certainly facilitate such a scenario for known associated allies of the Chinese sphere of influence. In particular if the USA support for Taiwan should become more vehement than it is at present and Sino-American relations were compromised then the fear is that China could destroy the American military/communications/GPS satellites rendering them virtually blind. Those same satellites also service US troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq where the American forces have come to doubt whether the job will ever be finished. In Iran US satellites are closely monitoring the development of a nuclear capability and though the Iranians say that it is for peaceful purposes the rhetoric emanating from Iran is inflaming the situation in the Middle East. If the satellites were destroyed ground conflict is an option being considered by Pentagon planners.
Recent underground tests in North Korea suggest that a nuclear capability exists there too. Much of the surveillance of North Koreas activities into nuclear technology is carried out by satellites, if they did not exist then the USA might have considered a more direct alternative as coupled with the obvious concern about nuclear weapons becoming available to what the USA see as a “Rogue State” their sub-nuclear technology has also developed missiles capable of a range approaching 4000 miles. The same scenario can also be applied to the Iranian situation that has now been in possession of both a delivery system and a nuclear capability for nearly a year.

Following the demonstration by China that it could destroy these satellites it must only be a question of time before North Korea and Iran could achieve the same objective. China’s assertion that they have no ambitions in the inner space surrounding the Earth may well satisfy the diplomatic channels that exist behind the “Bamboo curtain” but in view of the potential for the successful conclusion of the “Experiment” to destabilise both the Middle and Far East whatever the USA accepts publicly it must plan for the possibility that its satellites are now at risk. They still remember the last time a government professed to have no militaristic ambition and then attacked without warning.

China has contributed to the massive scentific effort expended by both Iran and North Korea to produce a missile with a range of around 4000 miles. Those missiles are now on the launch pad in Iran where it is known as the "Shahab 3"
and in North Korea where the exact same missile is called the "No Dong" both are thought to be derivitives of the Chinese version,The Dong Feng 31. All are capable of nuclear armament. the Chinese scientist have also been engaged upon the development of similar missiles in Lybia and Syria.

Leaving aside the possibility of imminent conflict for the moment the resultant explosion as the satellite was destroyed would have shattered the satellite and the missile sent to destroy it into thousands of fragments, each of them empowered with a velocity gained from the explosion. Some of those fragments are on their way to be consumed by the Sun some will hang around just outside the Earths upper atmosphere and some will puncture, compromise or destroy other satellites already in orbit. Given that Chinese ingenuity is respected world wide for its way of looking obtusely at a problem and coming up with a solution that had previously occurred to no one else did no one in the Chinese scientific community think of setting such a satellite on a course for the sun where it would have been safely consumed by the extreme heat?

The vast Chinese State is fast becoming one of the world’s emergent industrial powers but at a cost which the world will inevitably pay for. Its scant disregard for the environment is sacrificed daily upon the altar of progress, its rivers are among the most polluted in the world and the air quality is reaching a point where it is becoming saturated by carcinogenic contamination that will eventually be spread around the globe. To put the level of contamination into a perspective that can be equated to what we now call “Global warming”, if The UK [7th biggest industrial nation on Earth] suddenly stopped producing any of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming tomorrow and never, ever produced it again China’s present output of CO2 and airborne pollutants will overtake the reduction contributed to the worlds survival in just one year and by the end of the second year would be producing more than the UK has in the past five years.
The same cavalier disregard was taken into high orbit above the Earth with China’s destruction of its weather satellite and the fall-out from that pretentious experiment will reverberate around the Earth for a long time, if any of its inhabitants survive long enough to experience the aftermath it will not be due to anything that the inscrutable Chinese State has done so far.

If China is to industrialise then there must be a realisation that industrialisation comes at a cost and that cost is the control of the fall-out it will generate in the process. A lesson learned by the rest of the industrialised world half a century ago and they are still trying to neutralise the effects of their “Industrial revolutions”.


Posted: January 30, 2007 ,   Modified: January 31, 2007

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