The Military Is Winding Down Creepy-Sounding Ionosphere Research in Alaska

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 15 2014 6:26 PM

The Military Is Winding Down Creepy-Sounding Ionosphere Research in Alaska

haarp
HAARP's antenna array.

Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

This summer, the Air Force is shutting down its High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Gakona, Alaska. The research station, which is also jointly owned by the Navy, DARPA, and the University of Alaska, has studied telecommunication and surveillance technologies in the ionosphere (the upper atmosphere) since 1993.

If you’ve heard of it, there’s a good chance that it was in connection to the numerous conspiracy theories that HAARP has spawned—like the time people thought that sudden mass fish, bird, and crab deaths around the country were attributable to HAARP research. "That's been a popular one for the last two decades," Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine and a columnist for Scientific American, told the Daily News in 2011. "It naturally generates paranoia, it's like Area 51." People have also alleged that the government uses HAARP to cause earthquakes around the world, and even that the project contributed to the “polar vortex” this winter.

Advertisement

The station cost almost $300 million to build. It has 180 antennas on 30 acres of land that send energy into the ionosphere to study the flow of charged particles 55 to 370 miles above. The University of Alaska says it is interested in taking HAARP over once the military extracts itself, but according to the Anchorage Daily News, the school hasn't confirmed that it will pay the $5 million per year it will cost to maintain HAARP.

You can kind of understand how conspiracy theories around HAARP's research might start when you hear comments like the one David Walker—the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering—gave in a Senate hearing about the closure on Wednesday. He said, "We're moving on to other ways of managing the ionosphere, which the HAARP was really designed to do. To inject energy into the ionosphere to be able to actually control it. But that work has been completed."

Great. That's not terrifying at all.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Behold

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Oct. 20 2014 6:49 PM God’s Oligarch One of Vladimir Putin’s favorite businessmen wants to start an Orthodox Christian Fox News and return Russia to its glorious czarist past.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 6:48 PM Apple: Still Enormously Profitable
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.