Fire Away! 'Star Wars' Missile Defense Quiz
by Staff
In 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced a new plan for protecting against a nuclear strike: the Strategic Defense Initiative. Reagan's idea almost immediately earned the unwelcome nickname "Star Wars." How much do you know about the program?

Why was President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) commonly referred to as "Star Wars"?

  • Supporters of the program wanted a name that conveyed excitement and reflected a new era of the nuclear arms race.
  • Detractors chose the name based on their concerns that the proposed technologies were straight out of a science-fiction movie.
  • Reagan had just wrapped up a "Star Wars" movie marathon before telling the nation about the program.

What was President Reagan's ultimate goal for the "Star Wars" program?

  • To end the Cold War by forcing the Soviet Union into a costly and unsustainable arms race
  • To rid the world of nuclear weapons by creating a defense system that neutralized their threat
  • To scare the Soviets into reducing their nuclear arms by demonstrating America's superior technology

Which of the following wasn't one of the ways scientists and engineers proposed to shoot down ICBMs?

  • Orbiting lasers powered by nuclear bombs
  • Satellite-mounted rail guns capable of firing slugs at thousands of feet per second
  • Giant nets attached to satellites and capable of entangling ICBMs and throwing them off course

Which of the following is NOT a real acronym for a "Star Wars" weapon?

  • CHECMATE- - Compact High Energy Capacitor Module Advanced Technology Experiment
  • MIRACL -- Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser
  • SMASHR -- Satellite Mounted Attenuated Stacked Homing Radar

About a year after President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, James A. Abrahamson was appointed its leader. Abrahamsom was fresh from which agency?

  • The U.S. Air Force
  • The U.S Environmental Protection Agency
  • The U.S. Department of Energy

What was one of the many reasons the X-ray laser -- one of the proposed "Star Wars" weapons -- never got off the ground?

  • The laser required too much power to operate in space.
  • Because the laser was to be powered by a nuclear explosion while orbiting the Earth, it would have violated a treaty banning space-based weapons of mass destruction.
  • The X-ray project director was laughed out of the room for proposing a nuclear explosion-powered space laser and never got a dime in funding.

What was Reagan's timeline for the completion of the "Star Wars" program?

  • Five years
  • 15 years
  • As long as it took

Which of the following was a positive outcome of "Star Wars"?

  • It played a major role in forcing the Soviet Union to the bargaining table to discuss nuclear arms reductions.
  • It gave the United States its first operating, though highly limited, ICBM defense system.
  • Debates over space lasers gave political talk shows a huge ratings boost.

What ultimately became of "Star Wars"?

  • After the end of the Cold War, Reagan agreed to eliminate the program.
  • President H.W. Bush ordered a thorough review of the program shortly after gaining office, changing the program's focus to protecting against terrorists and rogue nations.

What does the acronym MAD stand for in the context of "Star Wars"?

  • Mutually assured destruction
  • Mostly asinine doctrine
  • Mobile artillery defense

How did "Star Wars" come about?

  • The American public demanded protection against the Soviet's nuclear weapons.
  • President Reagan decided it was vital for America's security.
  • Engineers and scientists insisted they had the technology to put the program in place, forcing a formal policy review and adoption of the program.

Why was the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a problem for "Star Wars"?

  • It limited the number of ground-based missile defense installations allowable, crippling the United States' efforts to build a missile defense shield.
  • It prohibited the United States from using lasers to destroy ICBMs.
  • It didn't. President Reagan notified the Soviet Union that the United States was withdrawing from the treaty as soon as he entered office.

How did U.S. allies react to the news of "Star Wars"?

  • With a mixture of astonishment, concern and curiosity
  • Enthusiastically, since the shield would protect them as well as the United States
  • Harshly, as they considered the program both dangerous for disrupting the established balance of power and a signal that the United States was abandoning them and looking out only for itself.

Which of the following was one of President Reagan's reasons for pursuing "Star Wars"?

  • Reagan wanted the option to initiate a nuclear attack while ensuring that a Soviet counterstrike would be ineffective.
  • The Soviet Union was pursuing its own missile defense system, and the United States didn't want to be left behind.
  • The Soviet Union had a commanding lead over the United States in the number of ICBMs it possessed.

Which of the following was NOT a potential defense against "Star Wars"?

  • Launching decoy missiles to confuse the missile defense weaponry
  • Overwhelming the defense system by launching more missiles than it could handle
  • Emitting high-powered electromagnetic interference to disrupt missile tracking systems

What was Brilliant Pebbles?

  • A proposed network of thousands of satellites capable of shooting down ICBMs with watermelon-sized projectiles
  • The name of a covert operation to discover the Soviet Union’s ICBM locations and targeting capabilities
  • A short-lived spinoff of "The Flintstones"

Which of the following mishaps actually happened during the development of "Star Wars"?

  • The United States accidentally destroyed a communications satellite while launching a decoy ballistic missile.
  • A rocket sled used as part of a ballistic missile interceptor jumped tracks during launch, destroying itself in the process.
  • Sensor technology lost track of a test missile and targeted a passenger plane during a simulation.

What percentage of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was phase one of "Star Wars" designed to destroy?

  • 50 percent
  • 75 percent
  • Hopefully 100 percent, right?

How much was the first phase of "Star Wars" projected to cost?

  • $20 billion
  • $150 billion
  • $1.2 trillion

Which of the following is a real component of the United States' missile defense system in 2011?

  • A ground-based thermal tracking missile capable of tracking and destroying an ICBM in orbit
  • A plane-mounted chemical laser capable of destroying a missile during its boost phase
  • A rail-mounted mobile missile defense base capable of shooting down medium-range ballistic missiles