July 4th fireworks threaten life on Earth

North Korea notoriously test-fired at least seven missiles July 4—although the intercontinental Taepodong-2, which we were told could reach parts of the Western US, failed less than a minute after launch, falling into the Sea of Japan, along with the other, medium-range missiles. The timing of the spectacle was not lost on observers. “It’s very in-your-face to do it on the Fourth of July,” said Ashton B. Carter, a Harvard professor who, with former defense secretary William Perry, had urged the Bush administration to destroy the Taepodong missile on the launch pad. (WP, July 5)

Meanwhile, we are asked to believe that the US Space Shuttle launch, allegedly postponed several days by unfavorable weather, happened on Indpendence Day merely coincidentally. Today the Shuttle had a successful rendezvous with the International Space Station. However, our fellow space-skeptics will be vindicated by eye-witness reports that at least six pieces of debris fell from the craft after lift-off. (AFP, July 4)

Even more vindicating, given the blatant propagandistic element to the launch, will be widespread reports upon rendezvous with the space station of bird droppings clinging to the craft’s (*ahem*) right wing. (AP, July 6)

North Korea’s bellicosity actually comes as a boon to the US, which has been seeking greater military access to Japan. Chitose municipality in Japan’s rural northernmost island, Hokkaido, agreed to accept US training flights at a base there in the immediate prelude to the North Korean missile tests.

The Japanese government and the Pentagon have been negotiating moving the training flights as part of a realignment of US operations. Chitose officials agreed to the test flights at the local Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base, as long as the Japanese government maintains overall control and takes responsibility for accidents or environmental problems. (UPI July 3)

In the US, sectors of the “idiot left” immediately ran to the defense of North Korea. Wrote the ever-predictable Workers World: “The DPRK’s tests on July 4 and 5 of its rockets were completely within that country’s rights as a sovereign state. It is perfectly understandable for the government in Pyongyang to take whatever measures it can to convince the rogue U.S. leaders that if it is attacked or invaded, then the aggressor too will face retaliation. This much maligned and attacked country deserves the support of anti-war forces around the world.”

One does not have to buy such vile malarky to point out that the US Shuttle program is arguably just as irresponsible as the North Korean missile program. As we have noted before, the Shuttles frequently carry nuclear materials—making a Challenger- or Columbia-type disaster a potential nightmare of mass irradiation.

Also recall that the US space establishment treated us to a similar spectacle last year on July 4.

See our last posts on hubristic space geeks and Japan and the North Korea crisis.