Feel free to blame this.
The Bovine-Oriented Orbital Mechanics Project
It seemed a good idea at the time.
In fact, it is difficult to decide when BOOM finally descended into madness. The basic idea – equipping a cow with a wearable methane collector – was, at its absolute worst, no more than a silly and mostly harmless idea. The first half of the twenty-first century was full of silly and mostly harmless ideas, which is why it’s a favorite setting for most nostalgic popular entertainment in the modern era.
Alas, in 2067 South American politics were considerably less silly and decidedly not harmless, given that it was year three of a thoroughly nasty war involving Brazil versus everybody else on the continent except Grande Guyane. Brazilian industry in particular was barely able to remain self-sufficient in materials, thanks to a remarkably effective blockade; and smart recycling programs could only do so much when it came to rare earths and elements. If Brazil wanted to keep its war satellite program supplied, it was simply going to have to come up with an alternative LEO option.
BOOM offered that option. Cows already produce methane on their own; and the problem of getting liquid-oxygen generators small enough for on-the-fly use had been effectively solved with the first primitive room-temperature superconductors of the 2030s. Theoretically, all it would take would be a tweak of a cow’s gut bacteria — suitably dependent on the usual anti-grey goo protocols, of course — to rapidly produce enough methane to launch the cow and a suitable payload into low Earth orbit. Well, that and the right kind of rocket engines. And an ablative wrapper to keep the cow from subliming while in flight — and to give helpful protein to the satellite maintenance teams. And let us note: contrary to popular legend, there was absolutely no way that a cow could ultimately survive the activation of the super-methane process, let alone the actual launch. But, well, Brazil had many cows.
Would it have worked? Maybe. Certainly BOOM was able to get a cow into orbit… and then the Brazilian military realized that what comes up, can come down. Like Mjollnir from orbit, in fact — assuming that Mjollnir was a dead cow.
It seems like the height of madness to launch a cow into space, simply to have it orbit the planet once and then hit military targets a mere five hundred miles from you, but organic missiles apparently had their place in modern warfare. Particularly when it turned out that anti-missile defense systems, entirely reasonably, were not designed to track and counter what were essentially inert blobs of meat. The BOOM Project was also not covered under any existing anti-kinetic energy weapons international treaties (something that the Great Powers hastily rectified in the 2071 Austin Accords). Within three weeks, Brazil had hammered back most of its enemies with bovine missiles.
And two weeks after that, Brazil’s enemies struck back, using hastily thrown-together copies of the BOOM missiles. Turns out that being able to launch on the equator makes a very real difference when it comes to whether a nation can participate in a KEW duel… and BOOM missiles didn’t even need a railgun facility. By the time the gristle settled, both sides were gingerly starting to target each other’s civilian populations; it took a direct threat by the Botswana Alliance to interdict all of South American aerospace, just to get the warring nations to agree to peace talks. The damage had already been done, however. A horde of screaming cows had thoroughly damaged South American infrastructure for a generation.
One last note: forget what the popular entertainments suggest. This entire sorry affair smelled horrible, from beginning to end. Think ‘burnt hair,’ not ‘BBQ.’