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President Trump's decision to create the 'Space Force' could have drastic effects on NASA

  • President Dwight Eisenhower initially wanted the American space effort to be run by the military.

  • In 1958, Eisenhower was persuaded to create a civilian space program - legislation creating NASA was passed that same year.

  • President Trump's recent decision to create the " Space Force" as a branch of the US military calls into question how it would interact with NASA.

Space, that final frontier, is something that catches the attention of a country naturally inclined to believe in ideas like "Manifest Destiny" and American exceptionalism. But how well does a Space Force fit that bill? And would a Space Force reignite a military space race and fuel diplomatic tensions with China and Russia?

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"American dominance in space": is the Force with Donald Trump's Space Force?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

"When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space," Donald Trump said, "We must have American dominance in space."

He told a meeting with the National Space Council, which he resurrected last year, that he was directing the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to establish a Space Force.

As commander-in-chief, he is already in charge of the US Army, the US Marine Corps, the US Navy, the US Air Force, and the US Coastal Guard - and now, he wants to create the US Space Force.

"We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force: separate but equal, it is going to be something so important," the president promised.

There is already a kind of Space Force, set up by Ronald Reagan in 1982. It is the Air Force Space Command, which CNBC describes as "less about space marines, and more about military satellites and protecting earth from space debris".

The US has "hardly ever disguised its view of space as an extension of military power", Newsweek argues. The Air Force Space Command has been used to "aid its flights, fights, and to win in air, space, and cyberspace". Reagan introduced the "Star Wars" programme, which George W. Bush unsuccessfully attempt to re-introduce, touted as "futuristic space-based ballistic missile interceptor programmes".

The problem with Trump's Space Force is that it is not a particularly popular policy: the Pentagon doesn't want one, Congress isn't keen, and the Air Force has lobbied against creation. Politico reports on an anti-Space Force movement, which includes generals and Republican and Democratic lawmakers. They fear that it would "siphon resources from other defense programs, strip them of authority or even weaken the military".

The Space Force was proposed last year as part of the budget for the Department of Defense. It has not been authorised yet. Vice president Mike Pence has insisted that Trump will make it a priority to get the sixth military branch authorised by Congress next year.

The Pentagon is set to deliver its report to the president on what the Space Force would look like. It plans to establish three of the four elements necessary to create the sixth military branch, according to Defence One. This includes a new combat command, a new equipment procurement agency and a corps of ‘warfighters’ drawn from existing services with experience in missile and space operations.

Since 1984, the US Air Force has put more than 280 satellites into orbit. Live Science explains: "These satellites do everything from predicting the weather, to monitoring ballistic-missile launches, to helping soldiers call their families... They are crucial for surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation and communication — and every branch of the military relies on them." The responsibility for this space security lies with the US Air Force, who will be overseeing it whatever the fate of the Space Force.

The Air Force Space Command, in its 34 years of service, commands and controls government satellites, helps NASA and private companies conduct rocket launches, and monitors space junk that could interfere with American space missions.

America was the first in the Space Race when Neil Armstrong made "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" as the first person to set foot on the Moon. The US discovered much of space, and now they want to conquer it.

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