SCIENTIFIC HURDLES

From sensors to software, the needs are daunting

An all-out Soviet nuclear attack on the U.S. could entail an intercontinental blitzkrieg: thousands of missiles launched from enemy territory, letting loose tens of thousands of deadly warheads surrounded by a nebula of hurtling decoys and debris. In half an hour, this lethal ''threat cloud'' would be over the U.S., raining destruction on cities and military targets alike. Trying to stop this deluge would require enormous technological breakthroughs in at least four areas: sensors, lasers, particle beams and computer programming. Should such advances occur, SDI proponents argue, a reasonably effective Star Wars defense would reduce to virtually zero the number of...

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