Missile Impossible?

This week's $100 million test of the space shield is all but fixed. Does the outcome matter?

Ten...nine...eight...seven..."

On a heavily guarded launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, 125 miles up the Pacific Coast from Los Angeles, a 63-ft.-tall gleaming white rocket sits and waits. Secreted in the nose of the 37-year-old Minuteman II is a 5-ft.-long cone--a mock warhead--and a deflated Mylar balloon. Let's say they are part of an incoming missile from North Korea or Iran. Meanwhile...

Six...five...four...

About 4,800 miles away on Kwajalein Atoll, perched atop a Pacific coral reef, another rocket sits and waits. Nestled inside its nose cone is a $20 million bullet known as the exoatmospheric kill vehicle. It...

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