While it may sound like a science-fiction pipe dream from outer space, US Space Command officials are adamant that one day, it will deploy warfighters into orbit.
But don’t expect to see Arnold Schwarzenegger types in cool space suits, firing at reptilian alien creatures anytime soon. (Although, that would be cool.)
“I think that will happen, but it’s a long way off … but at some point, yes, we will be putting humans into space,” Maj. Gen. John Shaw, head of the Combined Force Space Component Command at US Space Command, said during a discussion hosted by the AFWERX program.
“They may be operating command centers somewhere in the lunar environment or someplace else,” Shaw said.
Officials have said the Space Force could eventually expand its mission by watching over assets such as communications and GPS satellites and even defending human space flights, Military.com and Air Force magazine reported.
This possibility has also been evident through the service’s messaging.
For example, Space Force challenges new or potential troops to think beyond what’s possible here on Earth in its ads, two of which debuted in May, Air Force magazine reported.
The fledgling service asks viewers to ponder: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet” in one commercial; in the other, a Space Force member appears in a space suit.
But experts are split on whether a Space Force astronaut corps is a good idea in the next couple of decades, if at all.
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson argues that protecting the national security enterprise’s approximately 120 satellites doesn’t require putting people in space, Air Force magazine reported.
“There is no manned military flight and no need for it — certainly in the next 10-20 years,” Wilson said. “Some people talk about protecting space commerce. That is pretty far away and [it is] not clear that manned operations would be the best way to do that.”
Jeffrey Kluger of Time magazine was even more critical.
Military space technology has not progressed nearly as far as aviation had by the middle of the last century, Kluger wrote.
The hardware does not remotely exist for solo pilots to fly heroic dogfights in low Earth orbit.
It doesn’t even exist for the kind of robotic space war that Reagan envisioned with his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which burned through US$30 billion trying to come up with lasers, sub-atomic particle beams and electromagnetic rail guns, all to shoot down incoming missiles — and came away with nothing.
In saying that, China has not been coy about its drive to develop an offensive satellite destruction capability, while Russia has been nothing but clear about its hopes to regain superpower status — on the land and the sea, and in the air and in space.
Kluger concluded: Humanity’s savage nature being what it is, there may well be a time when we have the tools for actual warriors to do battle in actual space. A space force then would then be a very good thing. But that time isn’t now.
Meanwhile, media coverage on the concept of a military Space Force has been conflated with commercial space operations, for which NASA is responsible, the report said.
For example, in the Steve Carell Netflix comedy “Space Force,” one of the service’s critical missions is to successfully execute war games and put “boots on the moon.”
Even President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has contributed to the confusion.
For example, the Trump 2020 campaign in 2018 publicized a range of Space Force logos, including one depicting a space shuttle blasting off with the words, “Mars Awaits.”
Space Force has since unveiled its official logo.
SpaceX’s successful launch of two NASA astronauts from US soil to the International Space Station — and their subsequent return — prompted new questions about how the civilian and military agencies may work together on future space ventures, the report said.
The Space Force currently handles rocket launch ranges in Florida and California, watches for ballistic missile shots around the globe, and manages the Global Positioning System constellation and other daily satellite operations.
It was created to focus on beating out China and Russia as the dominant space power and to deter aggression, not to fight aliens or build a Death Star.
— Air Force magazine, Military.com, Time magazine, Netflix