Wednesday, August 13, 2008

High Stakes Tit for Tat

Life often follows art, or so it often seems.

In the movie 2010, tensions mount between the US and the Soviets (yes, they are still around in the future as seen from 1984 when the movie was produced), over Central American issues. As a result, the crews from a joint Russian-American space mission are forced to go to their respective corners (spacecraft) until it is clear that both are dependent on each others' survival and that they need to work together to get home.

Funny how a relic from that era named Vladimir is creating similar tensions today, albeit in a different part of the world, and raising similar issues for those flying far over our heads.

While the blogs debate the ultimate impact of the Emperor's failure to protect our interests in this matter by creating a gap in our ability to autonomously access the ISS, the minions are finding themselves squarely on the front line, quietly playing a role with international policy overtones. For with every pass over the troubled region, the Russian crew members are vigorously capturing reconnaissance data with hand-held cameras from their advantaged post on ISS.

The problem, for our partner adversaries, is that the only channel available for downlinking those jpegs comes from you know who. Consequently, the minions have been practicing bandwidth diplomacy, filtering the downlinks over the last couple of days, inhibiting the transmission of any bird's-eye view of the battlespace to their intended recipients, much to the annoyance of our station-mates.

So when the shoe gets on the other foot, it will be hard to complain when we, too, are ignored for putting the thumb out for a ride to and from the outpost in the sky. The precedent we are setting today will come back and bite us in 2010. And we only have the Emperor to thank for being in this very precarious position.

4 comments:

Mr. X said...

Very interesting info, if it can be confirmed. But it's hard to imagine photos from handheld cameras on ISS being of much military utility. Still, the unfolding situation in Georgia must make for some awkward divisions amonst the ISS crewmembers.

Specific Imp said...

I have heard that the Russians are licking their chops waiting for us to request more Soyuz flights - the price will be whatever they want. Such is the legacy of the emperor.

It is at tmes like these that one wonders about the true utility of having a single man in such a position of power. The complete lack of transparency, irrational decision-making and egomaniacal attitude are so destructive one longs for the clarity of a committee. (!!)
I know that sounds absurd. But how is it that only the reports on the destruction of Challenger and Columbia stand out as "good" engineering and management output. A meeting of 12 elite scientists and engineers who don't have political axes to grind might make for superior leadership. Certainly less destructive. We have just witnessed a single man squander tens of billions of dollars with no recourse to punish him. It is worse than the French trader losing 7 billion Euro.

kT said...

What I find amazing and revolting is that the MAJORITY of Americans, the congress, and many of the space enthusiasts, activists and players on these and the other space forums, are still CHEERING HIM ON!

The mere thought of another six months of this nonsense is too much to take.

Rand Simberg said...

It should be noted that there are no Russians in the current crew, though all three of them (including the NASA astronaut who was born in Canada) have Russian surnames. One suspects that a Ukrainian and a Turkmen aren't necessarily sympathetic to Russia's belligerence.