Weapons in Space


In response to a 1983 speech by President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. military and scientific communities offered to study the science of defense against nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense had established a major new program, the Strategic Defense Initiative, to support a greatly expanded research effort designed to avoid nuclear destruction. This so-called Star Wars proposal meant bringing weapons to space and required a change in U.S. strategy from the retaliatory nuclear deterrence model for defending against nuclear attack to an untried system dependent on new technologies of uncertain capabilities and reliability. Participants in this Academy project attempted to deal constructively with the principal issues raised by the SDI. The resulting report, initially published as a double-issue of Dædalus, does not reach conclusions about the desirability or feasibility of the SDI; rather, it presents favorable, opposing, and skeptical views about the relevant scientific, technological, strategic, and political issues involved.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Franklin A. Long (Cornell University) and Donald Hafner (Boston College)

Resulting Publication

  • Weapons in Space, ed. Franklin A. Long, Jeffrey Boutwell, and Donald Hafner. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986. (out of print)
  • Weapons in Space, Vol. 2, Dædalus (Summer 1985)
  • Weapons in Space, Vol. 1, Dædalus (Spring 1985)


Principal Investigators