COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ The Pentagon may use NASA’s 1990s space station to learn if astronauts can play a military role in orbit, according to the head of the U.S. Space Command.
Gen. Robert T. Herres said Friday the Defense Department was studying what military tasks man can perform in space because of great strides being made in this area by Soviet cosmonauts.
″We are taking a hard look at the role of military man in space and how to make his utilization compatible with new launch vehicles, on-orbit servicing and the repair of space systems and programs such as the space station,″ he said.
If the station is used, no military operations will be conducted there, only experiments, he said. It is believed many of the experiments would be related to the missile defense system known as ″Star Wars.″
The experiments-only approach might satisfy NASA’s European, Canadian and Japanese space station partners who were displeased when it was reported last month that the Pentagon, in an apparent reversal in policy, was interested in using the station.
″I really don’t understand all the furor,″ Herres said at a space symposium. ″The military policy has been consistent all along on not closing the door on such experiments. We do have the problem of finding and using a platform to explore the utility of man in space for military missions. There may be a need to do that on the space station.
″All I envision would be experiments,″ he said. ″I would not envision ... operational activity. It’s not the right kind of platform and it would create lots of problems for NASA.″
Herres said the United States must consider a military man-in-space program because ″the Soviets have made great progress in two types of space stations, both of which remain on orbit and which have the ability to provide significant military utilization.″
″Their accumulation of manned space flight experience and impressive infrastructure suggest the near-term ability to have a permanent manned presence in space,″ he said.
″We simply cannot allow them the luxury of being the only nation to have such a capability and to be making progress all by themselves in learning what man can do from space to support military operations.″