Exploring the High-Tech Frontier

Even proponents admit that Star Wars is a tall, and perhaps impossible, order

Advocates conjure up visions of death rays flashing across thousands of miles of space to zap Soviet missiles as they rise. Critics counter with derisive pictures of the most supersophisticated Star Wars weaponry foiled by something as simple as grains of beach sand scattered in orbit. Back and forth go the millions of words of argument that have been resounding since Ronald Reagan unveiled his Star Wars plan in 1983. But the essential question raised by all the debate can be put into just three words: Can it work?

The answer depends heavily on what is meant by "work." If the...

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