by Jon Sharman; Independent
‘We must have American dominance in space. So important,’ says president
Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to create a “space force” to establish American dominance outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
The US president told a meeting of the National Space Council that “we don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us” and announced his intention to reclaim primacy in the extra-terrestrial arena with a new branch of the military.
It is a plan Mr Trump’s defence secretary, James Mattis, has opposed in the past.
Last year he told Republicans in Congress that “at a time when we are trying to integrate the [Department of Defence’s] joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations”.
General David Goldfein, the US Air Force chief of staff, also spoke out against creating a new space branch. Gen Goldfein’s Air Force currently oversees most US space-related military activity.
Air Force secretary Heather Wilson similarly opposed the move, saying it would add unnecessary bureaucracy.
Mr Trump said the creation of a space force was part of the process of “reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation”, which he claimed was “great for the psyche of our country”.
On Monday he said: “When it comes to space, too often, for too many years, our dreams of exploration and discovery were really squandered by politics and bureaucracy, and we knocked that out.
“We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us.
“The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers. But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. So important.”
The US is a member of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bars the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space and only allows for the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes.
Creating a space force would require the budgetary approval of Congress, which has been divided on the idea.
“Thankfully, the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many missions at stake,” Democratic senator Bill Nelson said on Twitter.
Mr Trump painted the creation of a space force as a part of his renewal of America’s space-faring destiny, saying in his speech – a characteristic mixture of prepared rhetoric and unplanned stream-of-consciousness – that the US would now “do more than plant our flag and leave our footprints”.
“We will establish a long-term presence, expand our economy, and build the foundation for the eventual mission to Mars – which is actually going to happen very quickly,” he said.
Americans will also return to the Moon, he said.
He said his administration would “modernise” regulations governing activity in space, and suggested the effort would spur on the private sector.
He added: “You know, I’ve always said that rich guys seem to like rockets. So all of those rich guys that are dying for our real estate to launch their rockets, we won’t charge you too much.
“Just go ahead. If you beat us to Mars, we’ll be very happy and you’ll be even more famous.
“But you know what? If as long as he’s – as long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good. Okay?”
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