In an editorial titled “The Flight That Failed” (February 8, 1986), The Nation argued that the catastrophic Challenger accident pointed to the dimwittedness of President Ronald Reagan’s so-called Strategic Defense Initiative, which would have brought the suicidal-homicidal logic of the arms race into extra-terrestrial space itself.
That flash you saw on the television screen last Tuesday was a metaphor with many meanings: loss of innocence, heroic sacrifice, national tragedy. The fire and smoke and trailing debris composed a searing electronic icon that will stay in the mind’s eye of everyone now old enough to focus on the picture….
As the trauma diminishes in the weeks ahead, another meaning will emerge from the doomsday events. The explosion that consumed Challenger should also reignite the controversy over the Star Wars nuclear defense system. President Reagan and the hi-tech freaks and hacks who are pushing the program have almost convinced the “opinion leaders” in America that it is logically possible and mechanically feasible to laser and pulse our way into nuclear primacy and national security. But any schoolkid in New Hampshire can now see that with a misfire rate no worse than the shuttle’s, the Strategic Defense Initiative would be a dud or, worse, an engine of national suicide….
Both Star Wars and the manned shuttle program are major military projects, lucrative corporate boondoggles and serious efforts in public relations and self-promotion for NASA. The tragedy is that it cost seven lives to reveal the scam.
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