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Heavenly Ambitions: America's Quest to Dominate Space 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0812241693
ISBN-10: 081224169X
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Heavenly Ambitions: America's Quest to Dominate Space + Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age (Strategy and History) + the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age
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Editorial Reviews


"[Johnson-Freese] rightly discusses at length the emerging U.S.-China space relationship. . . . One of the most convincing parts of the book is devoted to the risks of miscommunication between Washington and Beijing on their respective strategic intentions in space."—Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

"A thoroughly researched and praiseworthy book."—Astronomy Now

"[Heavenly Ambitions] provides an understanding of the almost indecipherable national security space bureaucracy and all its stakeholders, [and] is the first work to measure these triumphant images against the realities of technology and politics."—Quest

"A detailed, well-written, and accessible book."—Geopolitics

"Heavenly Ambitions should be read by everyone who makes policy, or who thinks seriously about policy. By highlighting dangers such as confusing desirability with feasibility and ignoring the increasingly global nature of space, Johnson-Freese points out key pitfalls of the current U.S. approach to space policy, and suggests a more productive way forward."—David Wright, Union of Concerned Scientists

"Joan Johnson-Freese clearly identifies the present state of America's space program, the critical issues and challenges the United States faces, the urgent need for action, and the course the United States should follow in its future endeavors in space. Heavenly Ambitions is a book that should be read and heeded by all those involved in the making of this nation's policies in space."—George Abbey, former director, NASA Johnson Space Center

About the Author

Joan Johnson-Freese is Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College and author of Space as a Strategic Asset.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1st edition (May 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081224169X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812241693
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James A. Vedda on August 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Following up on her previous book "Space as a Strategic Asset," Joan Johnson-Freese exposes the inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and deceptions behind the advocacy for deployment of space weapons and long-range missile defense systems. Even if the technology and the resources to deploy such systems were available today (which they are not, she argues), there are serious strategic and diplomatic pitfalls associated with this path.
As in many political controversies, the debate over military space capabilities too often pushes aside facts, unbiased analyses, and common-sense decision-making in favor of oversimplified emotional appeals, partisan posturing, and stakeholder lobbying. Among the many questionable arguments that the author tackles head-on is one that claims space is just another medium of inevitable human conflict that should be treated the same as land, sea, or air: the U.S. should seek superiority and dominance. The author makes a strong case that there are significant differences in the medium of space that make it unadvisable to adopt a military space doctrine that closely mimics the traditional warfighting doctrine of the other areas. She also notes that when the "space should be treated the same" advocates are confronted with the fact that the land, sea, and air domains all live with rules of behavior and limits on actions, they quickly switch gears and claim that space is different and should have no restrictions.
A short review can't do justice to all the issues that the author addresses, which she backs up with rigorous research. Her aim seems to be to expand the debate and debunk myths rather than to propose comprehensive solutions, although her final chapter makes the case for better international coalition-building, recognizing that the U.S.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on October 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Heavenly Ambitions," by space policy scholar Joan Johnson-Freese, discusses "how our approach to space over the past two decades has squandered a once huge reservoir of goodwill toward American efforts in space" (p xii). Johnson-Freese's central argument revolves around the issue of "control" employed in discussing national security issues on Earth does not work in when considering the "high ground" of space. She comments that it, so ubiquitous in studies of national security issues, obscures more than it illuminates.

In many respects this book is a response to the belligerent language of the Bush administration, especially as manifested in the 2006 National Space Policy. That policy statement drew fire when first released because of its strident comments about U.S. perquisites: "the United States will: preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests" (p. 60).

Johnson-Freese's chapters walk through these issues associated with national security space in a chronological manner. She comments on the evolution of U.S. Space policy, the debate over space weapons, strategic communications, diplomacy and arms control, and the global aspects of spaceflight.

So what does all of this mean? That is, of course, the central question of all historical study. After a more than fifty-year gestation it is now apparent that space is central to the national security needs of the United States.
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