Is the time right for a Space Force?


OK so we have talked a fair amount about outer space. Countries are carrying out different kinds of space exploration, NASA sends rockets and probes to the Sun and other planets in our solar system. There is also a lot of research being conducted on exoplanets, black holes, and gravitational waves. Private companies are amping up the amount being spent on new rocket systems and on space exploration for commercial purposes. Some are looking for other planets for humans to inhabit. There’s a lot of activity in this mysterious place that is so hard to get to!

What’s new? US President Donald Trump believes that the time is right for the US to add space to its list of areas to defend. The US Armed Forces have 5 branches, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the National Guard. They want to add the Space Force to this.

What will the task of the Space Force be? To safeguard and protect US rockets, satellites, and space stations, and to ensure that no one is able to use space as a new battleground. The US is concerned that countries like Russia and China have been building surface to air missiles that can destroy satellites.

What’s so important about these satellites? They control our GPS, navigation systems, telecommunications, and transmit data about our finances and other transactions. If they were destroyed, cities could lose electricity, and phone and banking services for example. Cyberterrorism. Pretty powerful stuff!

Who has proposed the Space Force? Well, people apparently have worried about space being used as a battleground for a while. In fact, National Geographic says that there is an Outer Space Treaty that a bunch of countries, including the US, China and Russia signed in 1967, during the Cold War, that prohibits any countries from claiming any part of space or other planets as their own. The countries also cannot build any military bases or anything of that sort in space, test weapons, or station weapons of any kind on any other planets or celestial bodies.

Interestingly, there was something called the Strategic Defense Initiative that US President Ronald Reagan proposed in 1983 during the Cold War. This was nicknamed ‘Star Wars‘! He proposed ‘laser battle systems’ that would be based in space and on the earth to shield the US and shoot down missiles that the USSR might send their way. The technology was not up to speed at that time, but he couldn’t get support for this project anyway.

Who looks after US assets in space right now? There are already Agencies that look after US satellites in space. There is the Air Force Space Command, there is also a private company called AGI that tracks satellites in space. These are expensive pieces of machinery with important data, so it makes sense to track and protect them. Apparently, the Air Force does a pretty good job of taking care of them.

What US President Trump is suggesting now with the Space Force though, is different. As a separate branch of the Armed Forces, it’s job would likely be military in nature. He also wants there to be ‘military astronauts’! Some people say this is not necessary. It is expensive and time-consuming and is trying to solve for a problem that doesn’t exist because the existing agencies can already protect these assets in space.

Is this definitely going to happen? No. The idea first needs to be approved by the members of the United States Congress. It is unclear if this will happen as people are divided on whether or not there is a real need for this.

Stay tuned for an update!

Written by: Sunaina Murthy. Sunaina is a biotechnologist, writer, greedy reader, and amateur photographer.



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