Meet Space Force, Trump’s new military branch

New frontier? NASA says there are already over 500,000 pieces of debris orbiting the Earth.

Is a new force to protect America in space a good idea? Launching this week, Donald Trump says it will keep the US ahead of China and Russia, but some fear the militarisation of the cosmos.

In 1775, a year before the Declaration of Independence was ratified, the US set up the first three branches of its military: the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps. Next came the Air Force and the Coast Guard. And now a sixth branch of the US military is in the pipeline: the Space Force.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump officially launched the Pentagon’s new Space Command. “We must have American dominance in space,” he said when the plans were first announced.

What would a Space Force do?

One of its main tasks would be to prevent satellites, space stations and debris from crashing into each other as they orbit Earth.

But in many ways, its role would be similar to the rest of the armed forces. Much of what we do is controlled from space, so, as the former secretary of the National Space Council, Mark Albrecht, says, a force is needed to “make sure that all the things we enjoy are protected.”

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 forbids any country from claiming any part of space, but that does not mean military action in space is illegal.

Sean O’Keefe, a former head of NASA and Navy secretary, has called the plans “a solution in search of a problem.”

Would the creation of a Space Force really be such a good idea?

Star Wars

Yes, say some. Russia and China are both keen to gain more power in space. They are rivals, not friends — and the US must keep pace with them. There is already a lot of military hardware in space, and it is crucial for fighting wars. The US should prepare for anything: we have no idea what the future of warfare holds.

Bad idea, reply others. “A Space Force doesn’t mean more space weapons,” writes Rachel Becker for The Verge. It simply means an extra layer of bureaucracy inside an already massive organisation: the Pentagon. It would stoke up conflict where none really exists.

You Decide

  1. Will the major wars of the next millennium take place in space?

Activities

  1. Design an advertisement encouraging people to come and work for the new US Space Force.

Some People Say...

“Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump ordered the creation of a Space Command, which will initially be part of the Air Force. It is part of a longer term plan to set up a sixth branch of the US armed forces: the Space Force.
What do we not know?
Whether it will ever actually be set up. The Air Force is adamantly against the plan.

Word Watch

Declaration of Independence
One of the most important documents in the history of the United States. Ratified on July 4,1776, it states that Americans are no longer under British rule.
The Pentagon
The headquarters of the US Defence Department.
Debris
Scattered pieces of rubbish.
Outer Space Treaty of 1967
The treaty also bans placing weapons of mass destruction in space, and limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes.
Bureaucracy
Overly complicated procedures and systems.

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