Oral History Transcript — Dr. Peter Glaser
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Interview with Dr. Peter Glaser
Peter Glaser; November 8, 1994
ABSTRACT: Some of the topics discussed include: his Jewish childhood and early education in Czechoslovakia; his family's escape from the Nazi takeover; his education as an engineer in England; fighting with the Czech army during World War II; his return to Czechoslovakia after the war; his emigration to the U.S. where he earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Columbia University; his employment as a consulting engineer at D. Little in Cambridge, Mass. where he spent his career; his resolve to obey the Hippocratic oath to "do no harm;" Cryogenic insulation; lunar surface research and experiments; von Braun rocket team; space solar power; thermal imaging; Krakatit (the book).
TranscriptSession I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V | Session VI | Session VII | Session VIII | Session IX | Session X | Session XI | Session XII | Session XIII | Session XIV
Elder:This is November — November 8, 1994. This is the 12th interview with Peter Glaser and John Elder. And I have some questions tonight of things that were mentioned here and there along the way that I never pursued, and now I will.
Elder:The first was something, actually that we mentioned yes — well, you mentioned the last time as a subject that hadn't been covered, which is work on the station and the shuttle. And, so tell me about that.
Glaser:Okay. Let me get back to space station. I felt that the space station, as originally conceived — [knock at door] Yeah, come in.
Glaser:I always felt that if we wished to make a contribution in space, in terms of science, in terms of technology, and in terms of applications, we will have to do it with human beings in space, and extending the time that we can work in space. In fact, I wrote a [???] piece for Aerospace America. I've forgotten several years ago where I shared my opinions on space station that this is a very important thing for the next phase of exploitation of space by humanity. I always felt that the space station needed to perform a number of major functions. One is it'll have to test technology. Secondly, it will have to teach us how to live and work in space, for extended periods. And thirdly, it needs to be the spring board for further exploration, whether it's to the moon, mars, or wherever eventually we need to go. I have to admit that when I served on a NASA committee on sort of future program opportunities, I felt the space station was keyed to achieving the vision that NASA had, oh at least ten years — 15 years ago.
Elder:That's when you were on this committee?
Glaser:Yeah, I can give you the [???] bio and I think somewhere in there are the dates. I think it was '87. And I felt that we, as a nation, were embarked on a reasonably good way of going about it. I was first disappointed that it took it us too long after the Apollo program to proceed with the next step, which was to be a space station. And, well, we did have the shuttle, which really was a shuttle between the earth and the space station. That's what it was supposed to do. And I felt that when the shuttle became sort of the scientific laboratory, that was an obviously just an interim step, and we were hopefully going on with the task of building a space station. That was very disappointing when that task and the objective receded further and further. When it became clear that, for whatever reason, the costs which were at first thought for space station tended to escalate, for reasons that have been well discussed in terms of NASA's bureaucracy and various other things. And today we have a — we don't we have a space station, in the sense that those of us who are very much in favor of it, visualized it even a decade ago. The space station that I worked on was really a spring board. And, again I quote Felktistov when he was asked in 1978, "Why are you building this space station?" And he said, "Well, it is to learn how to robotically [?] assemblize [?] structures in space. And then, of course he asked, "Why?" "It's because we want to build solar power satellites.
Elder:What was his first name?
Glaser:I don't recall his first name. It's F-E-L-K-T-I-S-T-O-V.
Elder:Oh, it's all one name, okay.
Glaser:Felktistov. That is a fellow — well known. He's the guy who put Mia [?] and, you know, and the whole system together. Of course, not he alone, but you know, he was a program manager, I assume. The space station, I felt, is the key to going beyond the earth and we really should have looked at the space station as a way to test the systems that we will need in order to work and live in space. And I was very pleased that we were given the contract to develop — among other things — two key items. One was the refrigerator/freezer for the space station.
Glaser:Because if you live in the place, you — and you get food delivered, you got to keep it fresh and so that was one important project. And the other one was if you live in space, you have to be able to keep clean. And the key to keeping clean is to wash your laundry. And that lead us to develop the laundry system for the space station. That was very interesting because a laundry — at first people said, "Well, well just send things back and forth."
Elder:Back to our mothers.
Glaser:Yeah, to the mother and she'll take care of laundry. And then there were paper — various ideas. And it really didn't make much sense. And it's part of a system and as we worked in it, one of the key items was well, what's a soap? Because the soap has to be recycled, and it has to be non-toxic, and it has to take care of all, you know, the bacterial things and so on.
Elder:Does it have to be recyclable, or is it just better for this?
Glaser:Well, it has — the water is recycled in the space station, and if you have a detergent, and, you know, if it's the wrong kind of detergent, then it will give you trouble in the water system, and the filtering.
Elder:At the least, you have to be able to get it out.
Glaser:It's called ECLSS. Environmental Controlled Systems.
Elder:What was the first word?
Glaser:Environmental Controlled Life Support Systems. E-C-L-S-S.
Elder:Oh, I see.
Glaser:Environmental Controlled Life Support Systems. And so we even had the task of working on an appropriate cleaning agent. Well, I was very pleased that the — we were actually recognized by Popular Science as what's new in '92, and they had a big shin-dig in New York at Talon on the Green where we exhibited the model of the space station, and we had a man from NASA was there with us. And I could see that we were solving a problem which was of great interest, not just in space, but even on earth. Because, if you can wash clothes which does not add to the burden on — sanitary burden on the sewage, then the problem of detergents is fairly substantial. And you are in a very good position because at Arthur D. Little we were developing, not just the technology, but also the chemistry. And the strengths of Arthur D. Little, and we were among the first chemists consultant in the US when Arthur Dehan [?] Little started the company. So, we were recognized for this. Unfortunately, in the, sort of downsizing of space station, the laundry had to go. And then we had one more — well, three things, the third one was a portable contamination leak detector. It was recognized that there will be leaks on space station. Some of those leaks may be of fuel, hydrazone, stuff of the engine, and that could lead to a disaster in the space station. And the other thing is that the could leak, you know, oxygen, air, and various other gases. And we were a task with the development of this portable contamination and leak detector.
Elder:So you don't want the fuel leaking in where the humans are.
Glaser:No, but even if it's leaking you have a cloud of hydrazone, and you never know when things might let go. You know, that cloud travels with the space station. So, this portable contamination leak detector was a very challenging project, because we had to use very fancy instrumentation, which we would be able to do that. And we were —
Elder:Was it supposed to find where the leak was, or just —
Glaser:First of all, indicate that there was a leak.
Glaser:And it was on the outside and the whole EVA, there were people who would take this — it had to be something that a man or woman could actually carry and pin point, and all sorts of major tasks for it.
Glaser:And when that was abandoned I realized, well, that's sort of the water shed, because if you can't do such simple things that you have to do to safeguard the space station you really are decreasing it the ability to do things. And then they decided, "Well, we don't really need the washer, or the laundry system." And then they decided, "Well, perhaps we don't need a refrigerator system of the large size that we were, you know, slated to build." And we actually built prototypes of these things, and so they — these things existed, it wasn't just on paper.
Glaser:And I felt that the fact that these three things were essentially cancelled, was a signal that the space station would no longer have the function — could no longer function in a way which lead to the — that would meet the requirements that NASA had, and the various committees had set up.
Elder:Because it was — it would now be so tied to earth that it —
Glaser:Yeah, it would become —
Elder:— it wasn't a spring board anymore?
Glaser:— a — essentially it would become what the shuttle was —
Elder:Just a big shuttle.
Glaser:Extension of the shuttle, science laboratory. But you see, science is a very important thing, and certainly very useful. After all, I was involved in science in the Columbia 61-C initial Blood Storage experiment, which we built. But that was just one part. If all we would do is science, and not apply it for future activities, then the capabilities that this country has in space will atrophy. Because the excitement isn't just in science. It is in the applications of new technology. So that to me was sort of a… the death nail of space exploration. Because without a space station, I couldn't visualize how we would do all the things we had dreamed about and planned for during the '60s and '70s, and '80s. And I'm sure that one of these days there will be a space station which will do the kind of things that I believe need to be done. Which will be able to support large scale tests of technologies such as the capability to support space exploration. And there are many, for example, one way is why do we carry up fuel like hydrogen and oxygen? Then we can have water and electricalized water up there, and it's very easy to keep water in orbit, and —
Glaser:And safe, and then you can produce hydrogen oxygen because you have enough power up there. So the just — I feel we have not followed through on the many ideas and — more than ideas and opportunities, and a lot of the money is — I don't know what we've spent, what $10 billion so far? We have zero to show for it, expect prototypes and thick fat reports and QA, you know the kind of thing that all the programmatics that was involved in it. And I feel that this is a loss to the nation and to the world. How we will go back, when we will go back to it, I have no idea. At the moment it doesn't seem to be in the cards. It also diminishes, I think, the opportunity, not just to go to the moon and Mars and asteroids, and all the big plans we had, and — but also to build things like solar power satellites, or large satellites of whatever power relay — whatever we want to do. And it — I just don't see clearly, when and how this will turn around in order that we can follow the missions that I certainly believe humanity will have to deal with in the next century. And it may well be that there may be international space station, which will be somewhat different than what we are now talking about with the Russians. The motto it's cheaper, faster, better, is a good motto, but you have to decide if you do all that, what's the end result? I think there's no reason why the US should go it alone. There are many countries who, you know, all of humanity as a species will eventually have to do the things in space that we've always talked about. Because that's a professional society or even Heinlein's and Arthur C. Clark's novels. So, that was a big disappointment to me that a lot of this very good work, and it's not just by us at Arthur D. Little, but in many other places.
Glaser:Is now somewhere in some dusty reports which will probably shrivel up in ten years —
Elder:How did you —
Glaser:— and people will reinvent this whole thing or something, I don't know.
Elder:— find out — I mean, was there a protracted process of thinking it might be caught or it's going to be caught, or maybe, are you just going to find out one day?
Glaser:Well, the hand writing became on the wall when the program itself became so bureaucratized with so many, you know, checks and balances, that the programmatics became the objective, and all the rest became so that the reason for the program was not the technology in its application, but it was the programmatics was, you know, all the meetings that we had with people from centers from various of the aerospace companies. You know, there was 30 people in a room, and probably only three or four people could have done a lot of the things together. Therefore the cost of moving these people to their center, to Arthur D. Little, or wherever, you know, just to Rockwell, where the prime contractor was of these packages, as they were called.
Glaser:Well, that just was not a way that we could proceed. And that's the reason why so much money was spent, because we had checkers checking on checkers, and checkers. And the people who really did the work were always sort of hemmed in because it didn't matter that this thing could be made to work, but did you have paragraph so and so and to sub, sub, sub paragraph, and you know, perhaps it's in the software industry, too these kind of things. But it became so burdensome that we just couldn't — you know, it sort of was too heavy of a burden.
Elder:What was it like though while you were working on it? You know, while it — when it was still going on, what was it like?
Glaser:It was exciting because we were convinced that we were developing unique technologies, which had both applications in space and on earth, that was some very important things that we were doing, and the objective was the right objective to build a space station.
Elder:Did you bid on these particular —
Glaser:Oh yes. These were all competitive contracts.
Elder:And that when you — so you — you must have thought at the time that you had some particular —
Elder:— cards up your sleeves?
Glaser:I believe that our group really understood certainly that the refrigeration system, because we have worked in these kind of things.
Glaser:We understood the — if you like — chemistry science and the portable contamination and leak protector. And we have worked for industry on new ways to develop detergent, you'll see them in the Stop N' Shop. A lot of those things were done in — by people in our laboratories.
Elder:Hmm. What did you find yourself doing when you were — you were the manager of this?
Elder:Was this all one project, or three separate?
Glaser:No, there were three separate projects. I think the first one we started to work on was the refrigerator/freezer, and then the washer, and then a portable contamination leak detector.
Elder:And were you in charge of all of them?
Elder:So what did you do all day while you worked?
Glaser:Well, I think there are three stages that you go through. First you have a concept.
Glaser:Then you have to validate the concept, which is done usually by things being put together in the laboratory.
Elder:Who worked out the concept?
Glaser:There were several of us who came up with these concepts. And what I saw my function is to make sure that our teams were on the right track in terms of meeting the requirements, which were set. And that the technology which we were developing, you know, fit what I told you, do no harm, kind of thing, that people on the right track and that we knew we could make it work and so on.
Elder:So what did you do? What did that involve your actually doing?
Glaser:Well, that involved that we had to —
Elder:You, sort of you personally.
Glaser:Okay. I personally, as a program manager, I had to oversee several groups people. Some of them were developing on the washer case a detergent, others a mechanical part, others the fluid flow. Others interface with the environmental control life support system. And all of these things have to — and overall meet the space station requirements. So, we had QA, you know, the whole panelapy [?] of things that NASA required already at that time. And we had to keep in contact with the prime contractor, which was a company called IOC Space Systems, which, in the meantime has gone out of business.
Elder:They were the prime contractor for what?
Glaser:On the refrigerator/freezer, and the washer.
Elder:Oh, you were a subcontractor to them?
Glaser:Yes. You see, they —
Elder:They were going to build it?
Glaser:No, we were actually build — we were going to build the refrigerator/freezer, the inner things, and they were building, you know, the outer parts.
Glaser:The shell, if you say so. They also had the responsibility for the galley. And they worked for Boeing. And so we — portable contamination leak detector was for Lock Heed. And the washer and dryer also was for IOC and Boeing. So there were enormous cast of thousands when we reported. There were IOC people there; there were the Boeing people, and the NASA people. A room full of guys, most of these guys sitting there for three or four days. You know, with — I don't know what the hell they were all doing there. And really that was — I could see that there was just — that was not the way, in a programmatic sense to go and do this, because the checkers are checking —
Elder:Well, did the other —
Glaser:And small group actually doing the work.
Elder:But did other people feel — sort of — I mean, of all these people there, did a lot of them also feel that there were too many? Or that they themselves maybe —
Elder:No, you see, it's not the fault of the — it was the sort of the top level vision of what it takes to do these things. Because there were the work packages were called, I think there were three or four major work packages in Rockwell and Boeing. You know, the big aerospace down [???] Lock Heed.
Elder:Mm-Hum. And it just became — Mack [?] Dack [?], was another one. And so, it just was — in fact the PCOD was done for Mack Dack in Houston. And then we had meetings with the people from Sunnyvale, and it was a very complicated business.
Elder:Well, I can think of meetings that I've been in just at work, nothing so vast as this enterprise, and yet, we were all there, and most of us felt that this was — we were spinning our wheels, but we were all doing what some — what we were told — you know, we were following orders.
Glaser:Basically that's the thing.
Elder:None of us were really happy about it.
Glaser:No. That's — but now imagine the scale, you know.
Elder:Yeah. But were the people there unhappy or was it just you?
Glaser:No, they were concerned because they could see that it was so unwieldy and anywhere, and some people were so sticklers and there were minutes, you know, a whole procedure of questions. Which I — in retrospect one could see well, we were on the wrong track with the programmatics of all this stuff. That's not the way I built the Lunar Science Experiments.
Glaser:You know, I recall that we were able to do things with a small group of people and do it in a quarter of the cost and you know, half the time, or whatever. Today, for us to build a shuttle would just be out of the question. It would cost — but that's why NASA had to now totally rethink its way of doing business under the present administrator.
Glaser:But it nearly is too late, because the public has lost faith in NASA's capability. And it's still a bureaucracy. You know, in the centers and there's a lot of politics in the centers. Essentially it became — a center became — the reason for the center was to employ the people at the center. It wasn't to do necessarily all the things that the —
Elder:Right. The centers have to think of things to do, rather than —
Elder:— being there, because there is something to do.
Glaser:To do, yeah, so — and that I think bothered me greatly. And in some way I was — all of us at ADL were then — when the contracts were cancelled because I felt that the chances of anything being really done, worthwhile, were just so deluded by all this other stuff. So, I hope NASA can refigure the way they do business because the chances of us doing — you know, going to the moon and Mars, I mean, there's no way in the way that the business was conducted on the whole space station. Now my enthusiasm for a space station hasn't lessened. We've got to have a space station. But I'm not sure that having a can which talks to Mia — even if you call it a space station — is a space station. Or will be used to really promote the exploration of space in the sense that some of us at least visualized it.
Elder:I can just go back one more time to these —
Elder:— these projects. Because the thing is — something that is interesting me is they all — every one of them there's a very — there's a thing to build. A sort of recognizable thing.
Elder:A refrigerator, a pack — a power —
Glaser:A washer, yeah.
Elder:A washer, and not —
Elder:Nothing esoteric, and what do you — they all did get built, didn't they?
Elder:Or some version of them.
Elder:What do you remember about the things themselves — The question that was lost at the end of the other side, was, were you actually involved in putting these objects together and helping to build them with your own two hands?
Glaser:Not with my own two hands. I recognized that although I would have enjoyed doing some of that stuff, there were people who were better at it than I. You know, we had excellent mechanists, technicians, and, you know, people I had worked with for many years. And then I think we had a very good team working on it, we knew what we were doing, and we were convinced that we could make those things work right. And there were very novel approaches that were used, and hopefully somewhere somebody will say, "It was worth the effort." I think that is one of the pictures I had of this — I have papers on this that were in the Popular Science and of course, reports. I don't know who — where all these reports go once, you know, contracts are cancelled. But there was an article in Popular Science that I have someplace. I don't know where I put it, but somewhere.
Elder:This is interesting, because it seems — in a sort of a cursory way — so different than the other projects.
Glaser:But, you see, I'm an engineer.
Glaser:In other words, to me, working on a refrigerator/freezer, a washer, a laundry system, and a portable contamination leak detector, or a blood storage experiment or a lunar science — these are technical challenges. And whether you try and do the best you can to meet these challenges and even if I talk about solar power satellite, the solar power satellite consists of washers, refrigerator/freezers, portable contamination leak detector, a whole panelapy of technologies.
Glaser:And each one has to work together, so that you have an overall system and things, and work together. So, that's part of the — I'm known as the oratition [?]. When I talk about solar power satellites, to me this is as real as this —
Elder:Well, like you showed me the other day, the pieces.
Elder:A few weeks ago.
Elder:Let me just say for the tape, for the poor people who have to transcribe this, there shouldn't be mysteries. What Dr. Glaser just got off his shelf and handed me was a little — what would you call it?
Glaser:Sort of a piece that they had standing around at this —
Elder:Mini poster called A Washer From Space. It's just a diagram of this washer, and it does indeed work in an unusual way. Yeah, that's something I've noticed. I try to get out in the interviews. These experiences are different from the inside than they seem from the outside and what from the outside would seem very dramatic, "Wow! That's really interesting, boy that would really be sort of normal and boring." But from the inside, it's not that nothing is interesting or nothing is boring, but the distinctions aren't what you'd think they are.
Glaser:Yeah, it's a totally different — and you live it, you know?
Glaser:In my 40 years I've lived, and that's why I've stayed in this business so long, because I found that I could get up every day look forward to working this day on a very interesting and challenging project. And, in a sense, it's kept me young and on the edge of technology. I don't know what else I could ask for.
Elder:Do you remember the demos of these devices?
Elder:Whose — were there —?
Glaser:We were on TV with them —
Elder:Who all saw them besides the immediate interested parties?
Glaser:There were articles in the Boston papers. As I said, Popular Science selected it as one of the things which are new in '92.
Glaser:And there were scientific papers on these things, you know. And each one of these projects, I felt, it would be incomplete if we had not had a publication which would discuss some of the key — if you like, successes that we had, and the results and the data. And it's in the literature. In other words, you can read about the various things that I've been involved with in the literature, if you wish to go and delve into it.
Elder:I was surprised though, that these don't seem to have generated a business for it. With or without the space station —
Glaser:Well, remember, it actually we had a lot of interest from various companies, major companies.
Glaser:And the problem was that they wanted to see what happens when it works in space. And —
Elder:Something like this washer — is there any point to this —
Elder:— on earth? So then, who — if you're interested in that, what difference does it make whether it really works in space or not — if you're Whirlpool?
Glaser:My, in fact — we had several of these companies coming to us, and I think you will eventually see a laundry which will have some of the features that we had in there.
Elder:How many quarters will it demand?
Glaser:Because it uses far less water. You know a quarter of the amount of water.
Glaser:And it's just a totally different animal than what you have today in which, where you do your clothes.
Elder:Did you ever have your clothes washed in it?
Glaser:Oh yes. We washed it. You know, as I say, we had a prototype, it didn't look anything like a laundry because, the way I put it, this laundry was designed so that you could have it, use it as a night table in your bedroom. And to be quite. So, we had lots of fun with those things.
Elder:Ah, yes, interesting.
Glaser:So, it — you know, it was just part of the challenge, and I feel design — you know, working on any of these space station projects was as exciting as working on some of these other —
Elder:I have to ask, for this novel [???] washer, if you put ten socks in, how many come out?
Glaser:Well, you see, we don't use the same process that you use in the laundry. You know, where things get rubbed against each other. We use chemistry to clean. Now, we have a lot easier job. There's an institute, which, you know, checks laundries and so on, and they use laundry or socks, or whatever, which have been exposed to Arizona road dust. Tough material to get out of. Well, there's no such thing like Arizona road dust in space, we're only concerned about cleaning body fluids. Now that puts you in a totally different — we're talking chemistry.
Glaser:We're not talking about particular sandy material. If there's any sand in that space station, there are lots of other problems.
Elder:Okay. Let me now try a whole different subject.
Elder:And actually, I don't — let's see, I don't even know if you can talk about it, but you mentioned — well, I forget, some interviews ago, I asked you about various things you have done, and whether — or how your Hippocratic oath played out during your career, and you mentioned working on SDI.
Elder:What did you do?
Glaser:Well, I didn't actually work on the program SDI, I worked on the — that was the High Frontier Project.
Glaser:Which was headed by General Danny Graham.
Glaser:And it — that was the new national strategy, and my — it was actually funded by the Heritage Foundation. And it was interesting because —
Elder:Was this in a —
Glaser:You can — I suspect it's available. Here's the ISBN number. I don't know if it's still in —
Elder:It's private, yeah, okay. I mean this wasn't the government?
Glaser:No, no. It was done by the Heritage Foundation. And if you'd like to see who's all — here are some of the team members. You know it was a very, very good group of people, and my responsibility was, if you like, some of the commercial implications of doing that.
Glaser:Well, you'll probably recognize a few names. Teller [?] was a member of that group at one point. The X-Ray laser thing, if you recall —
Glaser:— that was one of the things. Now my interest here was I was convinced that the Russians were working on that. And it was a natural thing to do. It was to stop any missile that would be launched. So the High Frontier Project, which was started in 1980, I think, for — with the Heritage Foundation's support, and this I did — I wasn't paid, you know?
Glaser:It was contribution of the com — Arthur D. Little, of my time. Was launched because I certainly believed that we had no defense. The nuclear, sort of stalemate was assured destruction. Mad, mutually, assured destruction was not a way to end the life on earth. And I felt that I didn't have any illusions about the communist state. They would sacrifice and now we know what they were doing. Jeepers, they sacrificed their own people in terms of this environmental pollution when I was back in Czech Republic. And it's dreadful, you know, the beautiful Bohemian Forest is decimated, I don't know what will happen to them because of the pollution. Children have to be sent down coal mines because there is no clean air to breathe. And if you go there at this time of year you see this fog all over the place. So, they certainly couldn't care less what happened to people — of their own people. Well, I knew that they wouldn't care what happened to anybody else outside their country. And nuclear blackmail, if we would have nothing, would have been a terrible thing. We would have probably had to habituate [?]. Because the Russians would have meant — they would have said, "Fellows, we have X missiles and we're going to do, you know, light off the fuse unless you do whatever you do." You know, what the hell would the President do? He would have had to say, "Okay, we give up." We had no protection at all except that we will have our missiles do the same thing to them. Mutually assured destruction was a crazy doctorate. And I felt that we were engaged in a poker game, and those of use working with this realized it. That what we needed to do is play our cards in such a way to convince the Russians that we could stop their missiles. Now the secret of mutual assured destruction is that you know exactly where each of these missiles is supposed to fall. And the minute —
Elder:The ones aimed at you?
Glaser:Yeah. Let's say New York or Washington.
Glaser:Now, the problem arises when you don't know whether that missile will fall in Washington and destroy it. The minute you have that uncertainty, you're in trouble. Because you don't know. Will that take care of the US missile? Which would be in retaliation. And therefore that project was designed, not to prevent Russians throwing missiles, and destroying the US, but to prevent them from destroying certain sights. And they didn't know which sights would be — you know, we could defend against incoming missiles. Now the minute you accept that, that sort of blew out of the water their doctorate. Because then they didn't know if a general says, "I'm going to launch an attack." And he doesn't know which of his units will be in trouble, decimated, you know, he's very anxious about going ahead. And that's all we were after. We wanted to introduce uncertainty into their calculations. So that, let's say, only sixty-percent of their missiles, or 70 could get through. And that was enough to discombobulate their system. Well, how to do it was the kind of thing that we've been working on, and you know, Teller had this X-Ray — well, I didn't know which of these would be the best, that wasn't my problem; I wasn't working on that part. I felt that we were playing this poker game, and that indeed if we were successful and the Russians believed us — that we were going to do it — then they had to essentially put their money on their cards. And if their cards were — and we suspected weren't quite as good as — and their news weren't as good, then they might have to fold their tents and go home. Now that was essentially the idea behind the high frontier. I never expected we'd have to actually build the bloody system in all — just like in a poker game, as long as the opponent thinks that you hold a winning hand, he ain't going to continue playing the game. And that's all we were trying to do. Now that was explained, and I, Danny Graham, and Teller and I met with Meece [?] and various people in the White House, and essentially played out what we had been doing. And they understood what we were talking about.
Elder:Well, what was your contribution up to this? To that?
Glaser:Primarily, it was in the — some of the wireless power transmission aspects. The solar power satellite. And I think somewhere in this beginning here, Danny recognized what I was up to. Where is his introduction? Horizons.
Glaser:You see, I said that, "Fellows, if those are things we can do, we shouldn't stop this deterrent, that we're talking about, the strategic defense initiative but go beyond that."
Elder:Now how did you come to have a voice in this in the first place?
Elder:I mean, who asked you?
Glaser:Actually, Danny Graham. I got to know him, and I've — you know, I'm not hundred percent sure where. I had an early meeting and there was Danny in there and a few other, and Shriver [?], if you recall, he was General of the Air Force?
Glaser:And they became interested in, you know, what I had to say about solar power satellites. And it fit. Because if we can do the things in SDI we were going to do, then we can also do solar power satellites. So, it was a way of saying, not only can we defeat the Russians, but we can also eventually develop energy on a global scale.
Elder:And that was part of the —
Glaser:That was —
Elder:— sales package to —
Glaser:Sales package —
Elder:— to the President?
Glaser:— to the President. And then the President took all of this and I tell you, I was sitting listening to his speech. When was it? '81 or whenever it was, and I was — and he was finished, and I was leaving when the last paragraph came and he said, "We're going to do this." So, I had a few — and you know, just the other day I talked to one of the people that I worked with on that, and the High Frontier Project. And I feel that Danny Graham, who was head of the DIA — Defense Intelligence Agency — he knew what the Russians were, and I believe that the downfall of the communist empire — as Reagan said, "The Evil Empire" — was that the poker game was for real. And they knew that we could have the trump card, and trump them and they couldn't — they didn't have the trump cards.
Elder:Just because we had more money, really, huh?
Glaser:Not only money, we had the capabilities that they didn't quite have.
Elder:They probably — do you think they couldn't have?
Glaser:I suspect they couldn't have, because in the kind of system that they were working, you know, under duress, sort of all the secret, you know, stuff. The secret police, and all these conditions was mitigating against having people really come up with good things. And you see now clearly, that their weaknesses were throughout their system and was the cards that they built up, and it just collapsed of its own weight. But this was the one, I'm convinced, that took that first brick out of that whole edifice. And they saw if they wanted to play in our game, they didn't have the technologies and they didn't have the right people, and they didn't have the money and the will. And President Reagan believed us, that indeed this could be done. And for whatever SDI five billion dollars. Imagine, we spent five billion dollars and bloodlessly defeated "The Evil Empire." I mean that — and somehow that story has not been told in a way that the public knows about it, because that investment was such that they became convinced we could do it. And it didn't matter whether the nay-sayers in our country said, "You can't do it, the software's too complex, and this doesn't — won't work, and that won't." But you know, they felt that we could — oh, it didn't matter that the nay-sayers here didn't believe it, what was important that they believed it. That they knew us well enough from all the intelligence they had. Well, there were people here who probably could have done this, and that was all that was all that was needed. Because they had to believe that we could do it. Didn't matter that people here didn't believe.
Glaser:Because they knew their weaknesses, and they knew we weren't — we could really have done it. We could really have developed a system which would introduce enough uncertainties during a missile attack so that they would become defeated. And all I did was talk solar power satellites.
Elder:Yeah, I'm a little bit baffled still, like, what, what, how you're in this picture, or why you would be one of the group that went to the [???].
Glaser:Well, you see, I was one of the few people there who could talk about the Eastern European mentality.
Glaser:And I was —
Elder:And what did you say about it?
Glaser:Well, similar things like I was telling you know, that the dictatorships tend to be built on, you know, sort of very flimsy structures. Look at Hitler. I mean, that thing collapsed really overnight, too. No, we didn't have to kill Stalin off, or any of those guys off, it — all that matter that the military, and there were bright people there, believed we could do it. That's all that mattered. And then the military said — told the political guys, "You know, we have all these missiles, but that isn't going to defeat the US anymore. They can defeat us."
Elder:Did they tell them that?
Glaser:They must have. Because that was the reason why they fell apart. You see, the minute the political people realized that they no longer had the upper hand, in terms of threatening us with extinction, there game was up, because what was it, you know, they could do? And then, of course their own people no longer wanted any part of that either. Now I'm not a political analyst, I'm telling you that you know, in the engineer's terms I'm sure there are other people who can put it into the appropriate language. And essentially, I started way in the beginning when it was sort of a very small group with Danny Graham, Shriver and a few other people. A gleam in our eyes what could be done?
Elder:Did you also contribute to [???] —
Glaser:And by the way, I — Danny Graham and I, had a — I made a presentation to cap — Wineburge [?] and Calutchie [?] on the solar power satellite to show that not only could we defeat the missiles, but that those kind of technologies were applicable to a large scale project as well.
Elder:Of course, if you didn't believe that the US really would ever have to build all this stuff, then it wasn't — that wasn't going to get you your solar power satellites either, was it?
Glaser:Well, I felt that the kind of technologies being developed were all supportive of the kind of things. My assumption was that we would have — DOE and NASA would continue an SPS program, and then this would be parallel, and there would be interchange of information which would be useful to that objective, which never actually happened. Because it was prematurely stopped. You know, I think I mentioned that to you. So I think that was a very interesting part of my contribution to the victory of the democratic regimes [?] over the communist regimes, and I'm very proud of them.
Elder:Did you also — I mean the whole part of it that was a military plan, or you know — were you part of planning that, to? Did you have —
Glaser:No. There were other people who were very well equipped to generals, you know, this was a group of — the top people were involved. And then the SDI, I had physically — when the SDI physically came into being, I had nothing to do with that part of things. Essentially, I felt that my major role was fulfilled when the President made the faithful announcement on TV.
Elder:And do you think that was really part of why he bought it?
Glaser:Well, I think it was part impartial of the whole thought behind it.
Elder:And even within the High Frontier group, were there — did most of them feel that that was a valuable part of the idea, or were there several thought, "What's this guy doing here?"
Glaser:Well, I think that most of them were much more near-term oriented.
But certainly Danny Graham, as you can see, I didn't write those words in the forward, that's was his view and he was the guiding spirit behind SDI. So, I feel I had a very interesting time of it. And, you know, I'm still in contact with these same people. So, I think that the — we missed an opportunity there, too. Because a lot of good workers was done within SDI, Colonel Pete Warden, I knew very well, who headed, then from the technology point of view, and you see, there was a sort of synergism between what you had to —