Strategic Defense Initiative

From Academic Kids

For the computer game, see S.D.I.

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is a system proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear missiles. It was first dubbed "Star Wars" by opponent Dr. Carol Rosin, a former spokesperson of Wernher von Braun who was instrumental in the development of ballistic missiles. Some critics used that term implying it is an impractical science fiction fantasy, but supporters have adopted the usage as well on the grounds that yesterday's science fiction is often tomorrow's engineering. Supporters of SDI hail it for contributing to or at least accelerating the fall of the Soviet Union by the strategy of technology, which was a prevalent doctrine at the time. Opponents of the program say that Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms were the cause of the USSR's collapse and that SDI is an unrealistic and expensive program.

A similar missile shield proposal was a plot point involved in Clive Cussler's novel Raise the Titanic and the movie made from it.

Project and proposals

The project was largely overseen by Drs. Edward Teller and Lowell Wood. The initial centerpiece of the project was to be an X-ray laser curtain that was to be deployed as a satellite and powered by a nuclear warhead built into the satellite -- in theory the energy from the warhead detonation was to pump a series of laser emitters in the satellite and produce an impenetrable barrier to incoming warheads. However, the initial (and only) test done on the design, done in an underground shaft, gave nominally positive results that could easily be dismissed as coming from a faulty detector; due to the use of a nuclear explosion as the power source, the detector device was destroyed during the experiment and could not be examined after fact.

This aspect of the program was quietly abandoned and replaced with work on satellite-based mini-missiles called Brilliant Pebbles (the creator of the device took the name from a derisive putdown of the plan as "smart rocks"). The program was abandoned in 1993 with the advent of the Clinton administration, but at some point the focus shifted to ground-based interceptor missiles (similar to the controversial Patriot missile used in the first Gulf War), and the technology developed for Brilliant Pebbles was recycled for other projects. With the revival of the program as the second Bush administration's National Missile Defense, this has been the sole public face of the initiative; it has drawn substantial criticism due to the fact that only approximately half of the tests done can be considered successful, and even those were done under highly controlled (some say rigged, using GPS) circumstances.

See also

External links

fr:Initiative de dfense stratgique de:Strategic Defense Initiative nl:Strategic Defense Initiative zh:星球大战计划


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