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

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  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.