By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower
Last Friday marked the 49th anniversary of the first landing and walking by humans on Earth's Moon. And, next Sunday will mark the 60th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the nation's first civilian space agency (signed into law by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower on 1958 July 29, after Congressional passage on 1958 July 16; NASA became operational on 1958 October 1). The Trump Administration and the National Space Council are now calling for the establishment of the nation's first true military space agency, the U.S. Space Force.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced his proposal for a Space Force on 2018 June 18, during an address to the newly reconstituted National Space Council. In the address, the President said, “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement.” He further said that the Air Force and the Space Force would be two "separate but equal" branches of the United States Armed Forces.
The President had floated the suggestion for a Space Force during an earlier speech in March of 2018. Apparently, he felt that few people, particularly in the Pentagon, had taken the suggestion seriously, which resulted in the National Space Council address and official proposal.
Last year, a new U.S. Space Corps within the U.S. Air Force (as the U.S. Marine Corps is within the U.S. Navy), had been proposed by the Trump Administration. As the Pentagon showed little support for a Space Corps, the initiative went unfunded by the Congress.
Russia is the only nation that has had an independent Space Force. The Russian Space Forces operated as an independent branch of the Russian military from 1992 to 1997, and again from 2001 to 2011. The Russian Space Forces became a part of the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2015, similar to how the U.S. Air Force Space Command is part of the U.S. Air Force.
Currently, only three other nations have space-related military agencies:
- China: People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force
- France: French Joint Space Command
- United Kingdom: Royal Air Force Air Command
Although he was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II, President Eisenhower preferred creating a civilian space agency, which became NASA, for most scientific research into space exploration. In a Presidential Memorandum of 1958 March 5, it states the following:
“The President...said he has asked himself how we should use space activities for our national purposes. It seems to him that military activity on space projects is acceptable in the area of application of knowledge. He feels certain, however, that discovery and research should be scientific rather than military. He felt that there is no problem of space activity (except ballistic weapons) that is not basically civilian, recognizing that application of findings may be made to serve military purposes.”
For military space activities, a new Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was set-up within the Department of Defense on 1958 February 7. Today, this agency is known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and advances scientific research that often has civilian applications. The Internet and the Global Positioning System (GPS) originated with DARPA projects.
Since 1958, responsibilities for military activities in Outer Space has been reorganized a few times. A U.S. Space Command, which was a Defense Department Unified Combatant Command, operated from 1985 to 2002. In an attempt to streamline Defense Department commands, the U.S. Space Command was absorbed into a larger U.S. Strategic Command in 2002.
Additionally, three armed services-based commands, related to military space activities, continue to exist:
- Naval Space Command which was merged into the Naval Network and Space Operations Command in 2002;
- Air Force Space Command;
- Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that stated that, as of 2016, there were "60 distinct entities that deal with (military) assets in space." Although details for the organization of a new Space Force are not yet available, it seems that these would all be absorbed by the new, separate Space Force.
Following President Trump's official Space Force proposal, before the National Space Council, the Congress has commissioned two studies to consider the feasibility of such a new military service. The first study, which is due next month, would determine whether such a Space Force would be necessary. The second study, due in December, would examine the nature, implementation, and costs of a Space Force.
Supporters of a Space Force contend that American military space efforts are fractionalized among several different commands and other agencies. This leads to uneven implementation of military space goals and objectives.
Further, Space Force supporters believe that the Navy, Air Force, and Army have their expertise in sea, air, and land (respectively) activities, that does not transfer well into the realm of Outer Space; the Navy, Air Force, and Army just have other priorities. They believe that a single Space Force, which can completely concentrate their efforts in activities related to Outer Space, would be a much more efficient and effective manner to implement the nation's military efforts in Outer Space.
Mark Albrecht, Executive Secretary of the National Space Council from 1989 to 1992 has noted that “Space is a place where there is now tens of billions of dollars” in infrastructure, from the International Space Station to the the Hubble Space Telescope, to GPS and military surveillance satellites. He adds, “Everything from financial transactions to the GPS that guides your car is controlled from space, or at least facilitated by space.” He believes that we have such a huge financial investment in Outer Space today, we do need something such as a Space Force to protect that investment.
Recently, perhaps surprising support for a Space Force came from a well-known, science popularizer, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, long-time Director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium and host of the most recent Cosmos television series. He insists that people should not dismiss the Space Force proposal out-of-hand, simply because it was proposed by President Trump. Dr. Tyson believes a Space Force may be the best way to organize protection against possible asteroid strikes on the Earth.
People opposed to a new Space Force see the new military service as a new, unnecessary expense. They see a new enlarged and costly bureaucracy that will be a rival to the other military branches. They contend such an additional rivalry for military resources would be inefficient, and during a time of national crisis could be harmful.
Last year, when a U.S. Space Corps was being considered, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said, “The Pentagon is complicated enough...This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis also wrote to Congress in opposition to the Space Corps proposal.
On 1967 January 27, most nations of the world, including the United States, Russia (then, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), and China, signed the Outer Space Treaty. The treaty forbids weapons of mass destruction in Outer Space, but does not forbid conventional weapons. The treaty, however, does forbid the use or testing of any type of weapon on another planetary body.
The Outer Space Treaty also forbids military installations or military maneuvers on other celestial bodies, as well as any nation claiming land on a planetary body. Space analysts have long suggested that this portion of the treaty may some day need to be amended, to promote economic development and resource exploitation of other planetary bodies, including asteroids.
Few private corporations will be willing to make huge investments in Outer Space, if they do not have property rights on certain portions of planets or asteroids. Further, when such planetary and asteroid development begins, the nations from which the corporations come from will want to provide some type of military protection for the corporation's celestial activities, as our military currently protects corporations within our legal boundaries.
In the popular, science-fiction television series, Star Trek, to justify military action in a distant part of our Milky Way Galaxy, Star-Ship Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk (who led the Flag-Ship of the United Federation of Planets' “Star Fleet”) sometimes said something to the effect, “We are the only cops out here!” The question is: how soon will true “space cops” be needed?
Internet Links to Additional Information ---
Memorandum of Conference with the President (Eisenhower) - regarding establishment of NASA - 1958 March 5
Link >>> https://eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/nasa/Binder12.pdf:
Space Forces Around the World: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_force
Proposed U.S. Space Force: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Space_Force
20th Century Space Race between U.S. and Russia:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Race
1967 UN Outer Space Treaty: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty
Related Blog Posts ---
"45 Years Ago: Man Lands on the Moon !" 2014 July 20.
After 30 Years, New "Cosmos" Science TV Series Airs on FOX." 2014 March 7.
"JFK: Loss of the Man Who Sent Us to the Moon." 2013 Nov. 22.
"Moon Day - A National Holiday ?" 2013 July 20.
"The Historic Mission of Apollo 11, Man Walks on the Moon for the First Time; A Personal Remembrance From 40 Years Ago By Glenn A. Walsh" 2009 July 20.
Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
Tuesday, 2018 July 24.
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Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
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