“The Blinding of Orion: The Problematic Promotion of Pulse Propulsion” by
Quest Volume: 27 #4 (2020)
From 1958-63, General Atomics and ARPA collaborated on Project Orion, a proposal to build a spacecraft powered by atomic bombs. The dominant narrative is that Orion had been the best option to rapidly reach Mars and explore the outer solar system, and perhaps even colonize other stars, all while peacefully using up the world’s nuclear stockpile. In that narrative, this utopian future was the victim of short-sighted adoption of the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This article will show how that narrative emerged only after the project was canceled and served to obscure both the military nature of Orion and deflect from the engineering problems and bureaucratic tangles that stifled the project. Further, this article will show that not only did the Orion narrative serve to turn those who otherwise supported disarmament against the Test Ban Treaty, it existed as part of a broader Cold War culture that gave support to military nuclear weapons development under the guise that weapons of mass destruction have “peaceful” uses.
Guimont, Edward. “The Blinding of Orion: The Problematic Promotion of Pulse Propulsion.” Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly 27, no. 4 (2020): 3-12.