Stars Wars, Inner Space Style

Congress apparently is very interested in the potential medical applications of free-electron laser (FEL) technology, which heretofore has primarily been under development in connection with Strategic Defense Initiative use, but is increasingly being regarded as a possible future weapon against such viruses as those causing AIDS and herpes. The new budget for fiscal 1989 (which went into effect Oct. 1) included an extra $17 million for SDI stipulating that the allotment be used solely for EEL medical research. The Pentagon has already started to solicit proposals for two grant programs that would support university research on the technology. Proposals are beginning to trickle in, according to Air Force Captain Charles Houston, who directs the SDI Qrganization’s medical EEL program. Recipients are expected to be named before year’s end.

“We’re developing low-weight, low-cost [EEL] systems to be used in more locations,” says Houston. Prototypes currently exist...

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