Friday, May 09, 2008

Air Force's Scare-Mongering Space Ad - Fear Mongering at its Best!

When I first saw this commercial, I burst out laughing. I really thought it was a joke. You see this satellite in low earth orbit thats suppose to be a GPS or communication bird and the orbit barely looks high enough to even be that of the ISS and in comes a rocket on a clearly balistic trajectory!??? Excuse me? But it seems the AirForce is serious but more serious about generating fear and praying on those that do not understand clearly the dynamics of the systems they use daily. The goal, clearly is to not keep you better informed. And the funny thing is who is running the commercial gleefully? The Sci-Fi channel...It played while I was doing this article during Dr. Who of all

Wired is taking on the armed forces media with it's latest foray into propaganda. At question is the air-force's commercial, about the perils of an attack in space, which does more than stretch the truth, it violates quite a few laws of physics. The commercial says:

"What if your cell phone calls, your television, your GPS system, even your bank transactions, could be taken out with a single missile?" the military ad asks. "They can."

Well, No, they can't. Not unless there's some new missile out there that can strike dozens and dozens of targets, spread out over thousands and thousands of miles. As the article points out "Communication, television and navigational systems are handled by different arrays of satellites." And each set of satellites is thousands of miles from the other. At least ten thousand miles, for example, separates the arrays of communications and GPS satellites. Systems like the GPS satellites are in fixed or stationary obits called MEO or medium Earth orbit which are 12 thousand miles above the earth's surface. Still others are in fixed or stationary obits called geo-stationary which are twice that far out. There's no missile that can hit two targets that far away from one other. (In fact, there's no anti-satellite missile, taking off from Earth, that can even reach GEO or MEO. Even the much vanted Chineese satellite killer reached only 540 miles. But should such a missle someday be invented that could reach and kill a high flying satellite no system depends on just one bird let alone several systems. Even today, satellites fail or are rotated out of service. Very few people even notice when this happens because of the redundancy of the system. And for what it is worth many systems like banking use terrestrial fiberoptics as backup, so that even if the complete satellite system went down, the could continue to operate.

It is clear that the Air Force is preying on the lack of public understanding of the threat (and space in general) in an attempt to convince voters that space is important too and only the US Air Force can protect America in space.....

Here is the Air Forces peice if you haven't seen it yet

Wired's article


Shaun said...

(I was not around at the time) but the level of uninformed hysteria in the article does seem reminiscent of that which surrunded the appearance of Sputnik in orbit, some half century ago.

paul said...

WEll the Russian launch hysteria was at least based in some reality. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to that first launch, but when Uri went up, everyone I knew went wild. In both cases you could look up and see the problem, it was in some part real and the reaction pulled us out of our comfort zone and forced us to compete on a world stage. This newest event is just the opposite, how to close down, how to cut us off, rampant paranoia who's ultimate goal is tighter controls based on falsehoods and fear.