The Difference Between Open And Closed Societies

Conn Carroll /

On January 11, 2007, China launched a ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile that destroyed an aging Chinese weather satellite. China did not announce the anti-satellite attempt before hand, did not reveal it when it happened, and took days to reluctantly acknowledge the event even took place. Aviation Week was the first to report on the anti-satellite weapon test from a U.S. intelligence sources, which left a significant amount of space debris behind that will orbit the earth for centuries, possibly interfering with peaceful space operations.

In stark contrast, the U.S. has been completely transparent about the need to shoot down a malfunctioning satellite. The 5,000-pound spy satellite contains 1,000-pounds of frozen, toxic hydrazine fuel that if survived re-entry and reached earth could disperse enough deadly fumes to cover the size of two football fields, potentially causing a loss of life and property.

This difference in approach to the satellite shoot downs underscores one of many reasons why the U.S. rightly opposes a new treaty on space recently proposed by Russia and China: Such treaties would be almost impossible to verify, especially when they involve governments, which are already unwilling to be forthcoming and transparent about military-related space operations.