1978 Scorecard Vote
H.R. 12505. The vote is on passage of the bill to authorize $25 million for NASA and the Department of Energy to study the feasibility of a program for generating energy from solar satellites. The ultimate goal is to construct 60 or more giant satellites early in the next century, each with 50 square miles of surface area covered with photovoltaic cells which convert sunlight to electricity. The electricity would be converted to a beam of microwave energy aimed at a receiving antenna on earth. These receiving stations would convert the microwaves back to electricity and send it to population centers via high voltage power lines. The satellites must be manufactured in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles from Earth, which means that several hundred workers and all their raw materials must be transported into space by several hundred rocket launches per satellite. A satellite would wear out after 30 years, leaving a giant junkyard in space that could not be recycled.
Environmentalists support nearly all forms of solar energy, but not the solar satellite. This scheme is so costly and so grandiose that the money would be much more effectively spent developing land based, decentralized solar systems that already exist here on Earth. There is also concern over possible health hazards from microwaves and pollution of the upper atmosphere from thousands of rocket launches with consequent changes in the Earth's climate. The $25 million in this bill would have been spent without waiting for the results of an earlier feasibility study of the satellite concept that is due to be completed in 1980. This bill is the first step in a plan to spend over $250 million in five years. The Carter Administration opposed the bill. Passed 267-96. June 22, 1978. NO is the correct vote.