Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

It Is Difficult to Keep Buck Rogers Top Secret

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

It Is Difficult to Keep Buck Rogers Top Secret

Article excerpt

"Top Secret. Unauthorized use of this information is punishable by law."

Even as a child playing spy games, I never dreamed I would be in possession of Top Secret documents, and to this day I haven't. But I came close once.

In 1993, a research scientist from one of our federal laboratories approached me about the prospects of commercializing a military laser. As it turned out, it was an atomic laser developed for the Star Wars program and it had just been declassified. The paperwork I received marked Top Secret was freshly stamped "Unclassified."

We spent several months investigating potential applications for the huge device. The possible uses varied from recharging satellite solar batteries while in orbit to large welding applications on construction projects in remote areas with limited access to power sources. None proved to be economically feasible, and we all went on to other projects.

While this project failed to materialize, federal labs continue to pursue photonic or laser technologies for weapons and space applications. The exciting aspect of these projects is the commercial potential they invariably offer. NASA is developing a prototype for a "Lightcraft," a small, disk-shaped, laser-propelled aircraft. Sounds like a "flying saucer" to me! This craft eliminates the need for onboard fuel and flies on a beam of light at 5.5 times the speed of sound. The Federal Laboratory Consortium believes this Star Trek technology will lead to the evolution of ultra- lightweight, high-temperature materials, dual-mode laser propulsion engines and more powerful lasers.

The Air Force has developed a super-fast, high-resolution digital camera with a laser flash bulb than can capture the image of a bullet in flight. And, it can take the photo far down range, a major step from the 1930s strobe light technology developed at MIT by Harold Edgerton. The Army has a laser technology that could lead to 3-D television. At the White Sands Missile Range, the Army is testing several components for an eye-safe laser system that can precisely track and photograph missiles, targets, shrapnel, debris, trajectories and other moving objects. In addition to battlefield applications, imagine what this application could mean to air traffic control systems.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is located in New Mexico where more than 600 scientists and engineers produce exotic laser devices, weapons and aircraft. They currently are developing what is referenced as the "New Millennium Aircraft." Now that several generations are accustomed to seeing Buck Rogers' technologies become reality, this Air Force project seems to be a blinding flash of the obvious -- laser death rays!

Air Force officials, not as colorful as Buck Rogers, use the term "directed energy technologies. …

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