Did the Air Force’s $1 billion “spy satellite”—or whatever the Zuma mission really was—actually fail to reach orbit and burn up on re-entry, or is it still circling the planet, carrying out its clandestine mission?
The liberal mainstream media, the Washington Examiner reports, is asking a lot of questions about the mission. In particular, they want to know:
- What is Zuma?
- Where is Zuma?
- What went wrong with Zuma?
And they’re asking everyone they can think of, and coming up empty. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White referred all questions to SpaceX, which in turn will only say that its Falcon 9 rocket performed flawlessly. Joint Chiefs of Staff Operations Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie also declined to comment due to the classified nature of the mission.
But, the media isn’t even sure if it’s barking up the right tree. While the mission appeared to be military in nature, it has so far only been described as a “restricted government mission,” meaning it could have been directed by any federal agency involved in space missions.
The level of secrecy surrounding Zuma is particularly confounding for the media because even top-secret missions involving space flight are usually leaked in bits and pieces, particularly if there was a critical failure. No one wants to be left in the dark if a 10-ton piece of space junk, possibly containing hazardous substances, is about fall on his or her head. By their nature, the more they're put off, the harder the media will dig.
Beyond the little we know about the mission so far, the only clue we have left to work with is the mission name itself. Zuma is a female name of Middle Eastern origin, derived from an Arabic word that means “peace.”
The name doesn’t connect with any publicly announced military space programs, but the Pentagon has been aiming to develop space-based military systems since Day 1 of the Space Race. In fact, the International Space Station was born from a Pentagon-funded project that aimed to create an array of military space platforms in low Earth orbit.
The Zuma mission was meant to put a government payload into LEO. Perhaps it did. Either way, it’s unlikely we’re going to know for sure anytime in the immediate future.