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The United States became the first nation to end anti-satellite missile tests amid concerns that space debris created by the launches could threaten military and commercial interests. The administration said it was also halting tests to highlight a Russian test reportedly created a field of space junk.
Vice President Kamala Harris announced the ban in a speech at the Vandenburg Space Force Base in California on Monday,
“We are the first nation to make such a commitment, and today, on behalf of the United States of America, I call on all nations to join us,” Harris said. “Whether a nation is space faring or not, we believe this will benefit everyone just as space benefits everyone.”
The move immediately came under fire from lawmakers who say that it could weaken the U.S.’s position in the global space race.
“The United States must demonstrate strength on the world stage as Moscow continues its illegal and unwarranted attacks in Ukraine,” Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday evening. “Unilaterally stripping ourselves of the option to increase our capabilities in space, places our national security at risk and weakens our ability to respond to increased Russian and Chinese threats.”
RUSSIAN SPACECRAFT WITH NASA ASTRONAUT MARK VANDE HEI ABOARD LANDS IN KAZAKHSTAN
Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said the ban “does nothing to deter our adversaries in an escalating war fighting domain.”
“Both the Russians and the CCP have demonstrated their anti-satellite capabilities – it would be naive to think they don’t intend to use them against our assets.
Russia destroyed a defunct Soviet-era satellite in November, creating more than 1,500 pieces of space debris that posed a risk to the International Space Station.
China destroyed a meteorological satellite in 2007 that created a cloud of more than 3,000 chunks of space debris, while India targeted satellites in 2019.
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The United States launched an interceptor missile from a warship in 2008 to destroy a malfunctioning spy satellite.
Altogether, missile tests by the United States, China, India and Russia have created about 6,300 pieces of space debris since the 1960s, according to the Secure World Foundation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.