Fire Away! 'Star Wars' Missile Defense Quiz


4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

In 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced a new plan for protecting against a nuclear strike: the Strategic Defense Initiative. Reagan's idea almost immediately earned the unwelcome nickname "Star Wars." How much do you know about the program?

Why was President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) commonly referred to as "Star Wars"?

As a former Hollywood star, you might assume Reagan would appreciate having his defense initiative named after one of the most popular movies of all time. In reality, he saw the name for what it was: a jab at the seeming impracticality of shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles in space.


What was President Reagan's ultimate goal for the "Star Wars" program?

Reagan anticipated that SDI might force the Soviets into an unsustainable spending frenzy and force them to negotiate over nuclear arms, but his ultimate goal was to render nuclear weapons obsolete by building a worldwide defense system against them.


Which of the following wasn't one of the ways scientists and engineers proposed to shoot down ICBMs?

While all of the weapons considered for the "Star Wars" program were pretty out there (literally), giant space nets weren't ever a consideration.


Which of the following is NOT a real acronym for a "Star Wars" weapon?

With names like CHECMATE and MIRACL, you get the feeling that the people behind "Star Wars" had some fun coming up with intimidating names for the system's weaponry. SMASHR, however, wasn't one of them.


About a year after President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, James A. Abrahamson was appointed its leader. Abrahamsom was fresh from which agency?

Abrahamson was a military man, with a background in aeronautical engineering, who went on to work for Oracle, NASA and others after his "Star Wars" stint.


What was one of the many reasons the X-ray laser -- one of the proposed "Star Wars" weapons -- never got off the ground?

As preposterous as the X-ray laser seemed, it got some serious funding under "Star Wars." Unfortunately, in addition to major technical hurdles hampering its development, it also violated the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.


What was Reagan's timeline for the completion of the "Star Wars" program?

What many critics of "Star Wars" don't realize is that President Reagan knew from the outset that the program might take decades before producing an effective missile defense shield. Reagan hoped that future presidents would see the initiative's importance and carry it forward, but the end of the Cold War drastically changed the United States' defense priorities.


Which of the following was a positive outcome of "Star Wars"?

Because the Soviets considered "Star Wars" such a threat to the established balance of power, they agreed to talks over reducing nuclear armaments.


What ultimately became of "Star Wars"?

While President Reagan remained convinced that "Star Wars" could lead to a nuclear free world, President Bush facilitated a massive restructuring of the program to meet the emerging threats of a post-Cold War world.


What does the acronym MAD stand for in the context of "Star Wars"?

While President Reagan might have argued "B" was a better answer, the idea of mutually assured destruction helped keep the peace between the United States and the Soviet Union for decades by guaranteeing that launching a nuclear attack would mean the end of your own country as well.


How did "Star Wars" come about?

Although a few scientists in the early 1980s argued that the United States should pursue a large-scale ballistic missile defense system, "Star Wars" was a top-down initiative driven by Reagan's hope for a world free of nukes.


Why was the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a problem for "Star Wars"?

The ABM Treaty limited the number of ground-based missile defense systems which, while only one part of the "Star Wars" program, were critical to the new defense initiative's success. The United States ultimately withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002.


How did U.S. allies react to the news of "Star Wars"?

Like many policymakers and political pundits, the United States' allies didn't quite know how to react when Reagan announced "Star Wars." While they remained concerned that the program would lead to an escalated arms race, they also recognized its potential for creating a safer world.


Which of the following was one of President Reagan's reasons for pursuing "Star Wars"?

In the early 1980s, the Soviet Union had more than twice as many ICBMs as the United States, an advantage that worried Reagan and prompted him to find a way to neutralize the Soviet Unions' threat.


Which of the following was NOT a potential defense against "Star Wars"?

While the Soviets considered "Star Wars" to be a credible threat to their national security, they knew that the system wasn't foolproof and that they had a number of options for disrupting it. Still, electromagnetic interference wasn't one of them.


What was Brilliant Pebbles?

Brilliant Pebbles was an ambitious but promising initiative that would have placed 4,000 satellites into space, each capable of communicating with each other and autonomously shooting down Soviet missiles while they orbited the Earth.


Which of the following mishaps actually happened during the development of "Star Wars"?

When developing something as complicated as ballistic missile defense system, there are bound to be mistakes. That was definitely the case during the testing of High Endoatmospheric Defense Interceptor (HEDI), which was designed to destroy Soviet missiles descending toward their targets. Unfortunately, the only thing HEDI destroyed was itself during testing at the White Sands Missile Range.


What percentage of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was phase one of "Star Wars" designed to destroy?

"Star Wars" was designed to be a three phase initiative, and phase one was designed to destroy at most 50 percent of the Soviet’s nuclear arsenal. As the program progressed, however, the impossibility of wiping out the Soviet Union’s entire nuclear strike became apparent.


How much was the first phase of "Star Wars" projected to cost?

$150 billion is a lot of money. Once the Cold War had ended, the astronomical costs of the program simply couldn’t be justified. As a result, the scale and direction of the United States’ missile defense efforts changed drastically.


Which of the following is a real component of the United States' missile defense system in 2011?

Boeing is working closely with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to develop the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB), a plane-mounted missile defense laser. The laser successfully destroyed a boosting missile in February of 2010.


About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes