The Star Wars Sweepstakes

Amid a swirl of controversy, companies and schools vie for defense dollars

Not since John F. Kennedy launched a crash effort to put a man on the moon has the U.S. undertaken a public venture so ambitious or expensive. The Administration calls the program the Strategic Defense Initiative, the press has dubbed it Star Wars, and the hundreds of companies and universities competing to work on the project could easily rename it Star Bucks. Experts estimate that fulfilling President Reagan's vision of building an impregnable defensive shield against nuclear attack, if it is possible at all, could ultimately cost anywhere from $400 billion to $1.2 trillion. It would thus become the biggest bonanza...

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