This story was produced by Peter Lopez
President Donald Trump announced plans to create a sixth branch of the military called the space force on June 18.
Trump called for American dominance in space and cited national security as the reason for this announcement, according to an official press release from the White House.
“There’s no place like space,” Trump said, according to an official press release.
In 1967 the U.S. signed the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits launching weapons of mass destruction into space and establishing military bases on the moon, according to Politico.
However, many see the creation of the space force as a move to militarize space and begin a new space race over the militarization of the cosmos, according to Politico.
Though some saw this as an unexpected move, the Trump administration has hinted toward a greater space presence for months. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence, who is chairman of the National Space Council, called for a renewal of America’s commitment to their space program in an opinion piece released in The Wall Street Journal.
“It means establishing a renewed American presence on the moon, a vital strategic goal,” Pence wrote. “And from the foundation of the moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars.”
Bob Jones, a retired United States Air Force officer and the current legislative representative for the State of Idaho Veterans of Foreign Wars, said there are mixed emotions among military personnel about the creation of the space force.
“The United States Air Force has the biggest concern … because the mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight, win — in air, space and cyberspace,” Jones said. “The Air Force is not really too happy about this because they see this as a grab and reach into their turf.”
Jones said that while some in the Air Force may not like the idea of losing some responsibilities and others may find the idea of a space force silly, ultimately, it is a needed step for the United States.
“We can’t afford to get behind in this,” Jones said. “The first country to get up there … they’re going to dominate and national security is going to be a real issue.”
Brian Tonks, a professor of physics at BYU-Idaho who completed a Ph.D. in planetary science, said that while the United States has accomplished great things in their space program, that political goals play a huge part in the emphasis any space missions undertake.
“After we went to the moon, interest in those kinds of missions really plummeted — basically, we did it for political reasons, not for scientific reasons,” Tonks said. “Once we went there the political reason for doing it disappeared, therefore, the political will for doing it disappeared as well.”
Tonks said that the creation of a space force could increase our basic understanding of the space environment, but that it could also be accomplished without the militarization of space.
“I get concerned about whether or not militarizing space is going to be a positive thing or not,” Tonks said.
Trump has been mulling over the decision to create a space force for months and still needs Congress to approve it to make the space force a formal military branch, according to Time.
“Above all, the National Space Council will enable our nation to bring American values to this infinite frontier,” Pence wrote in his opinion piece. “It will renew the American spirit itself, as we lift our heads and reach our hands toward the heavens, in pursuit of peace and hope for all mankind.”