The 'New SDI' Must Be the SDE — Strategic Defense of Earth

January 23, 2019
President Donald Trump holds up a jacket he was given by a guest, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, after signing the S.422, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo)

In light of President Donald Trump's call for an R&D program for spaced-based anti-missile defense systems based on new technologies, it is important to recall that, with the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia and the U.S. had serious preliminary discussions on collaboration on such research, not only for strategic defense, but also — and more importantly, for a future world at peace — for the Strategic Defense of Earth against the very real threat of asteroids hitting the Earth. This proposal was revived by Russia in 2011, and is key to creating a new win-win strategic dynamic today.

There were a number of scientific conferences on asteroid defense from 1991 to 1995, following the collapse of the U.S.S.R., which featured top missile defense and nuclear labs related people from both the U.S.A. and Russia. In particular, there was a 1993 conference in Erice, Italy, "Planetary Emergencies: The Collision of an Asteroid or Comet with the Earth." (This was a continuation of the 1980s Erice conferences focused on the threat of nuclear war, and the possibilities of SDI-type defense, chaired by Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, along with Edward Teller and Evgeny Velikhov.)

In a published report by one of the participants in the 1993 Erice conference (Dr. Canavan), it was noted that the head of the U.S. delegation, Henry Cooper (then director of the SDI Organization) "reviewed the ... progress of the 'high-level group' discussions established by the Bush-Yeltsin summit to explore joint U.S.-Russian defenses, and invited participation in dual-use technologies for defense and warning of aggression."

One of the participants told EIR in a private discussion years later, in paraphrase: "There was a quasi-government offer made in Erice. There was a parallel discussion: the issue of asteroid defense was the more open, public discussion; also a more private discussion on the issue of strategic defense — on behalf of the U.S.A., Ambassador Cooper, head of SDIO at the time, and for the Russians, the arms control advisor to Yeltsin, Evgeny Velikhov. When they returned to the U.S.A., the political environment had shifted, and the U.S.A. went away from the issue, even though there was still Russian interest."

This background is key to understanding the 2011 Russian "Strategic Defense of Earth" proposal to the United States, originally presented by Dmitry Rogozin, then Russia's Special Envoy to NATO (currently Roscosmos director), and supported by an array of high-level Russian officials—until the Obama-Clinton Ukraine coup killed prospects for positive U.S.-Russian relations.

With Trump's election, we have a new opportunity to end geopolitics, and create a win-win strategic paradigm.

Recently, researchers from the Department of Celestial Mechanics at St. Petersburg State University reported that the 370-meter-wide asteroid Apophis will make several near-Earth passes, in 2029, 2036, and 2068, with the 2029 pass to be only 1/10th the distance from the Earth to the Moon! There are discussions of a mission to attempt diversion, with the U.S. and China to be invited to cooperate. The Russian teams findings will be presented at the Korolev Readings on Cosmonautics to be held in Moscow later this month, according to RT.

Today, we should be focusing on upgrading the SDE perspective—starting with asteroid defense, and broadening the focus to other threats and challenges commonly shared by all inhabitants of our small planet (comets, solar flares, cosmic radiation, galactic weather, etc.). The solutions to these challenges require joint, open development of nearby space (as Lyndon LaRouche defined with his Moon-Mars mission design, subsuming the technology-driver aspects of the SDI), shifting defense-related investments and technologies towards space cooperation, situating missile defense as a subsumed component of that.