[FPSPACE] Weapons in space

DwayneDay zirconic1 at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 16 10:16:55 EDT 2004

-----Original Message-----
From: Igor Lissov <lissov-i at yandex.ru>

>There are many problems with this section.

>First, the source. Well, Ivan Meshcheryakov (the correspondent got his 
name incorrectly) *was* indeed in charge of Glonass development within
TsNII-50. But... he is rather old, he retired in 1988 and in his 1996 book
one can see both reasonable chapters on space systems and pure

That reminds me--the current issue of Quest contains an excellent interview with Dr. Bradford Parkinson (USAF Lt. Col. Retired) who was one of the fathers of the US GPS system.  I imagine that many people may have no interest in this, but I think it's a great interview because it sheds light on a subject that I don't think has gotten any attention before.  Although it has some technical history, what I found most interesting is that Parkinson discussed the bureaucratic history of GPS.

In short, the Air Force had a navigation satellite program and the Navy had two, but none of them were ideal.  What Parkinson did was integrate the best parts of each one into GPS and then got it funded.  This may seem like a boring point, but you have to keep in mind that the military services are parochial and that it was a pretty amazing accomplishment to get the Navy and Air Force to cooperate together.  Parkinson does not say so, but I wonder if this affected his Air Force career in any way.  It does not always help in the USAF to be seen as collaborating with the US Navy.

(Sidenote:  I had researched part of this story for my book on the USAF chief scientists five years ago.  But based upon this interview in Quest, it appears that I got part of the story wrong.  But considering that my book has probably been read by about ten people, that's not that big a problem...)

Parkinson left the GPS program in the 1970s and did not keep in touch with it after that.  He mentions that the USAF cut the GPS budget a number of times during the 1980s, and he also mentions that the system could have been fully operational about a decade before it actually was.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever done a detailed history of GPS.  The USAF does not sponsor many history books, and certainly does not sponsor many space history books.  They like to take credit for GPS and all its wonders, but the reality is that the service was never enthusiastic about it and delayed its debut.  To be fair, they had some minor justification for this, but I still think that the Air Force's record with GPS is not as good as it should be.

Igor wrote:
>Second, the reporter. People covering space in three largest
Russian news agencies (ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, Interfax) are not 
space educated. Of course they are self-educated to a degree, but as 
a rule they cannot see or check or correct even an obvious error from 
the person interviewed. (Kislyakov obviously integrated several reports
of different quality.)

>And if a space-related statement is made by leaders of the country, 
then it is even worse because the reporters covering President and
the Government aren't space educated at all.

>Third, the translation, a big problem too. 

>So don't think too much on such reports.

Thank you.  That was my impression of this article, so it is good to see it confirmed by someone who knows the subject and the language.

The real indicator is actually the overall structure of the article.  I know that translating from Russian to English can change words and sentence structure.  But I assume that both Russians and English-speaking reporters generally write their articles using the same general structure (usually a pyramid, with the most important information at the top of the story).  If an article wanders all over the place and does not make much sense, then I assume that the problem is with the reporter, not with the translation.

Unfortunately, _many_ of these articles on military space translated from Russian to English are simply not very good, usually because the reporter does not know the subject very well.  But recently someone sent me an article from a Russian military journal that had been translated into English and it was really impressive.  The translation was good, but the impressive part was that the author knew his subject very well and did not editorialize.  It was a sober, balanced assessment of Russian military space capabilities and areas requiring improvement.  The overall tone sounded like something from a good American military journal.  Clearly there are people in Russia who write about Russian military space programs who know what they are talking about, but unfortunately most of the articles we see are written by ignorant reporters.


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