The military implications of space technology may prove far more dangerous and significant than the vast impact of the airplane. Against this prospect the Air Force must attain not only the technological capabilities but also the systems and manned operational experience that will in the future be vital if this country is to succeed in keeping space free.
The President has characterized the exploration of space as “one of the greatest adventures of our time.” He has said he regards his decision to expedite the National Space Program as among the most important decisions he will make during his incumbency. There have been statements by other officials to the effect that man’s future lies in space and that successful pioneering of space holds the key to man’s well-being.
Our space efforts pose unprecedented problems in astrophysics, mathematics, communications, chemistry, biology, medicine, materials, engineering, and mechanics.
Research and development are commanding the attention of our finest management talent.
Stimulated and nourished by government space programs, our laboratories, industrial plants, and universities are concentrating our best scientific and engineering brains in the largest-scale attack on new knowledge in man’s memory.
As a result of this national effort, new ideas, new products, and new technology are literally gushing out of our satellite programs, our missile programs, and our manned spaceflight programs. Back in June, the Denver Research Institute had isolated 145 separate examples where industry was already making products or using processes originating in space science.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this new space science will benefit the American economy.
The field of materials is rapidly changing. Miniaturization is affecting such diverse applications as weather forecasting, improved packaging techniques, self-contained power supply units, and communications.
Medicine and education are undergoing significant changes.
Lessons learned in our space program will improve the physical and intellectual well-being of all peoples.
The new space science has the potential to create an order of magnitude of economic, cultural, and scientific wealth that could significantly change the whole fabric of our society in a few short years. It could affect our world more than all the scientific breakthroughs of history—the work of men such as Copernicus, Newton, and Darwin that changed the world of their day and forms the scientific basis for our present thrust into space.
Space is also a new dimension of man’s dangers. It is an infinite region that begins only a few miles above the United States. It is a medium through which —and from which—vastly lethal machines such as ICBMs can move even now. There is no basis for doubt that future space developments could threaten us with even greater dangers. We could be threatened, not merely with new spaceborne weapons, but with a whole new region of possibilities for aggression.
If there is any doubt about this last statement, I direct your attention to Soviet Defense Minister Malinovsky’s congratulatory telegram to the Vostok Cosmonauts which stated in part:
“Let our foes know what technology and what militance are in the possession of Soviet power.”
Are we to shrink from these implications? Of course not, and we aren’t!
The National Space Program, on which the United States is embarked, consists of two parts. One part—that of scientific explorations into space—is the function of NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The other part—that of providing necessary military capabilities in space—is the function of the Department of Defense. The two parts of the National Space Program work in coordination; indeed, all of the space shots so far attempted have been lifted by rockets developed in the military program—and all of the Astronauts have been military personnel. NASA’s space operations, however, are not intended to develop military space capabilities. This is due to the fact that NASA does not bear military responsibilities and has all it can do within its capabilities to execute its nonmilitary space program.
The military capabilities I’m thinking of are: interception and inspection of unidentified or noncooperating space objects, operation of weaponry, observation, and a multitude of others.
On the other hand, the basic space science revealed by NASA activities is, and will continue to be, useful in respect to military applications. Just recently the Air Force began participating with NASA in the Gemini man-in-space program.
What does this cooperation mean
As you can readily understand, certain items of military equipment, which may ultimately be destined for application to unmanned space vehicles, are much easier to test in their earlier phases with an intelligent and technically trained man present to facilitate the tests. This wouldn’t necessarily be true if we had to develop a manned vehicle for the purpose of conducting these particular tests. But given a manned vehicle, such as Gemini, which is going to fly for other reasons anyhow, we can do collateral testing.
The Air Force will use, to the benefit of military space capabilities, all scientific advances and acquisition of knowledge achieved by NASA. We don’t plan to wait for a program of fallout—if we can hasten advancement or increase its utilization through collateral efforts. This we are doing, in the national interest, to ward advancing our considerable space testing and development of approved space programs.
The military space program is necessary because military capabilities address themselves to military threats and are capable of reacting quickly to enemy aggression.
For example, at this time a significant military threat to the United States is posed by intercontinental ballistic missiles. These missiles pass through space en route to their targets. In the over-all flight of a ballistic missile, much the greater part of its trajectory is through space. It may be found that the threat of offensive missiles can be dealt with only by utilizing defensive systems involving space orbiting or rendezvous operations. That raises the question of the in-flight survivability of our own missiles. By this I mean we must know whether space can provide an aggressor with means of intercepting our counterattacking US missile force. Thus, a prime requirement is to become familiar with military operational factors in space. To seek such defensive opportunities as may be afforded us in space, it is only logical that we must learn to operate militarily in that medium.
Space also affords unparalleled opportunities for observation and communications. These are critical factors from a military viewpoint. No nation can afford to allow an enemy one-sided exploitation of space or any other medium for communications and observation in wartime. If one of two opponents possesses military capabilities relative to space and the other does not, there can well be one-sided military exploitation of space in wartime.
Yet the threats from space are perhaps most profound and most deadly in those aspects which cannot yet be described. Space is a new medium about which military knowledge is sketchy. The medium of air, in which military operations have been conducted for
less than fifty years, provides a warning. When the aircraft was first seen in flight, no man visualized a great bomber delivering a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. The military implications of space may prove to be even more dangerous and even more revolutionary than those that have evolved with the aircraft. For our own safety, we must take the lead and remain in the forefront of whatever developments may come. Otherwise, some dark day could witness the space equivalent of the nuclear bomber, except that the target could be in our own country. We must remember that any medium—be it land, sea, air, or space—where man can function and operate military systems —for either offensive or defensive purposes—can be a region of danger to peace and security. In this new medium of space I believe that the military defenses of the western world must be objective, applicable, and evident.
I want to emphasize the factor of time by which space threats and counterthreats are governed. If an unforeseen threat emerges in the new medium of space, months or years will be required to devise, develop, and render operational the necessary defense against that new threat. A military capability for defense is the product not only of technology, but also of training and operational experience.
To attain this capability now, the Air Force space program is directed toward both the development of hardware and the training of the man.
In regard to the latter, we believe that preserving the peace in space cannot be completely relegated to a black box. The trained man, whether in a manned space vehicle or in a ground surveillance control point, will be one of our most valuable assets in our national space effort—and for our survival.
Keeping space free for peaceful purposes is a fundamental responsibility of the American people.
Other generations of Americans have borne burdens1 that were heavy and difficult. Abraham Lincoln, speaking of his period of American growth a century ago, said this:
“We cannot escape history. The fiery trials through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dish honor, to the latest generation. We, even we here, bear the burden and share the responsibility.”
Lincoln’s words were applicable to the problem o his American generation: to preserve the Union Lincoln’s generation met its responsibility. We cannot afford to do less.
A unique generation of Americans now governs the life of this country. I am speaking, of course, not merely of government officials, but of all the millions of Americans who take part in steering the great industrial, agricultural, social, and humanitarian triumph that is the United States. This vast complex that we call America is, by far, the most advanced achievement of man. And this present generation of Americans has helped to achieve it, has defended it in painful wars, and now executes for America the task of assuring its continued growth and security. This should be enough to ask of one generation. It has been and is a heavy burden, sometimes a desperately difficult task. Yet, it is this same generation of Americans that now faces the greatest task to confront man since the beginning of time—opening the door to infinite space. We will pass through that door and confront the challenges, the dangers, the uncertainties, and the failures that are sure to come. We will be required to make decisions that will profoundly affect the future of mankind. We will go into boundless space and deal with its unpredictable events, garner its benefits, surmount its threats. We will go where, in billions of years, earthly man has never been. Space is the newest and the greatest task of this unique generation. Future generations will only refine what you and I have the opportunity to pioneer.
And Americans are professional pioneers.
I have stated my beliefs on the importance of space—its importance to the future well-being of our country—its importance to the future progress and, possibly, survival of the world.
I have noted some of the implications affecting this new medium—the peaceful ones of scientific research —the threatening ones of aggression.
I have also indicated paths that will open unmeasured horizons to man—paths where our nation’s security may lie—paths that lead straight up, where Americans will pioneer in a new challenge—perhaps the greatest challenge of all—space.
|Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force since 1961, is probably the world’s best-known exponent of military aerospace power. A native of Columbus, Ohio, General LeMay started his military career in 1928 after completing flight training at Kelly Field, Tex. An engineering graduate of Ohio State University, General LeMay’s flying career predates World War II, during which he earned fame as a bomber commander, and includes such pioneering efforts as prewar long-distance B-17 flights and the development of overseas flying ferry routes that were used during the war. During the war he developed much of the strategic bombing doctrine that was used to such effect in the Allied air campaign against the Axis powers. After World War II, he served with the newly-established Air Research and Development Command, headed US Air Forces in Europe, and commanded the Strategic Air Command. He became Vice Chief of Staff in 1957. Above is condensed from an address by General LeMay to the Executives Club of Chicago, delivered in that city on February 1, 1963.|