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Dr. Michael Gruntman, Wednesday, 9-23-15 September 24, 2015

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Dr. Michael Gruntman, Wednesday, 9-23-15


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Guest: Dr. Mike Gruntman. Topics: Dr. Gruntman’s new book, “Intercept 1961: The Birth Of Soviet Missile Defense” plus missile defense issues. Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm. For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.


We welcomed Dr. Gruntman back to the show to discuss his new book, “Intercept 1961: The Birth Of Soviet Missile Defense” along with the subject of missile defense in both Russia and the U.S. today. During the first segment of our 1 hour 44 minute program, Dr. Gruntman first started out by telling us that the USC Department of Astronautical Engineering was now in its tenth year. He described the program & how it differed from other aerospace engineering programs at universities across the country. I asked Mike about the classes he teaches and has taught & as you will hear, his classes have been extremely popular with upper division and graduate students. Dr. Gruntman then turned his focus to his amazing and very unique book, “Intercept 1961: The Birth Of Soviet Missile Defense.” While I took elaborate notes during our discussion to serve me in writing up the summary of the program for our archives (as I do with each show), Dr. Gruntman, listeners through emails and phone calls, plus my questions, covered so many important historical as well as current and strategic topics that doing any type of “blow by blow” summary would short change what you will hear on this program. As a result, I am choosing to summarize our discussing by referring to themes and big picture issues for the most part instead of reporting on the incredible detailed information Mike shared with us. We started out talking about the little known Soviet Union missile defense program starting in the 1950’s. The program was not part of the space program or the Soviet military but instead was part of air defense. It was very secretive. The early Soviet program was significantly advanced over anything the U.S. had at the time, especially with the first Soviet intercept March 4, 1961. Mike then explained in amazing detail the Soviet program, the research and development, targeting, nuclear destruction as opposed to the direct hit. He talked about rocket and warhead as one unit, then the development of the capability to separate the warhead for its own incoming trajectory along with the intercept difficulty of figuring out what was the useless rocket body as compared to the warhead which was the intercept target. As we discussed this subject, listeners asked Dr. Gruntman about early US missile defense weapons and our program. Also in the first segment, we talked about using nuclear weapons for the intercept because guidance and targeting was not yet advanced enough for a direct hit kill. This led to several discussions about nuclear explosions and their effects in the upper atmosphere where the intercept would take place. I asked Mike how he got access to the information used for his research and this book. He talked about a window of opportunity that existed in Russia for document access and declassification from the early 90’s to the early 2000’s, then the window closed in Russia. He also got information from the Freedom of Information Act and multiple library archives. The end result is an amazing book on a seldom discussed & little known topic that each and everyone one of us should learn about as the consequences of missile defense are extremely important with the potential to impact all of us.


In the second part of the program, we fielded more listener questions & requests for comparisons with American missile defense weapons of the same era. We also engaged in a detailed conversation about the role of diplomacy in missile defense, particular from the U.S. and western perspective. Mike talked about diplomacy being naive in the face of significant national security threats and issues. As part of this discussion, I drilled Mike on how much of his perspective on missile defense, diplomacy, and national security came from his having grown up in the Soviet Union, having been educated there, having lived in a totalitarian system that had food and other shortages, and then his actually escaping at great risk to get to the U.S. As part of his reply to my questioning him about the impact of his background on his analysis of his work, especially on diplomacy issues, he told us a great story about the Soviet Union honoring the famous Soviet cosmonauts. Do not miss this story. ┬áMike then talked more about the missile defense system surrounding Moscow and noted that they had more than a 30 year operating history with it which gives them significant operational advantages along with advanced management control to maximize the benefits of the system, even if it has technical deficiencies. Another topic discussed was the advances made by the US in later years in digital computers and guidance and targeting. This enabled the US to develop direct hit and kill interceptors while the Soviets still relied on the nuclear explosion kill weapon. As you will hear, radar played an important role in missile defense. Dr. Gruntman addressed radar issues during both segments of the program. Mike talked at length about the 1955 design work that led to early 60’s operations. Near the end of the program, I asked about incoming warhead speeds, we talked more about nukes exploding in the upper atmosphere, and the ongoing debates about deploying missile defense in the U.S, especially since at this time the eastern part of the U.S. is not shielded. In his concluding comments, Mike argued for citizen education on the subject of missile defense, especially in light of the growing number of players in the world that may prove hostile to the US such as China, N. Korea, and Iran, with capabilities now or in the near future to reach the US with an ICBM & nuclear weapon. Mike used another great story to illustrate why he believes we need missile defense, even if it is less than perfect. This story focused on the police wearing body armor but still be vulnerable to being shot in places where they are not protected by the body armor. He said that was no reason not to wear body armor. He urged we learn lessons from past history (this implies we need to factually know the past history on this subject), because the consequences of a bad or wrong decision by diplomats, policy makers, or those mandated with the nation’s defense can be catastrophic.


Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog. You can reach Dr. Gruntman through me or his faculty page at USC, https://gapp.usc.edu/about/faculty/mike-gruntman. His book is available on Amazon at www.amazon.com/Intercept-1961-Missile-Defense-Library/dp/1624103499/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1443122232&sr=1-1&keywords=intercept+1961. If you buy the book using the One Giant Leap Foundation portal mentioned on our home page and all archived shows on the website and blog, Amazon will donate a percentage of the sales price to OGLF/The Space Show. If you have questions about using the OGLF Amazon portal, let me know and I will be glad to help you. It is really easy.