Having had a successful, if insubstantial, peace making summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, US President Donald J. Trump returned to the White House to much discord. Controversial topics include, the US familial separation of illegal immigrant children, and the imposition of US import tariffs which could have a serious affect the space business if retaliation takes place.
President Trump also managed to upset his generals by ordering the US Department of Defense to form a new branch of the armed forces: the US Space Force. Several unnamed generals – especially in the US Air Force – are said to be opposed to the move. As he announced this order, President Trump publicly warned that China and Russia were seeking to control space, and said: “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”
While most nations only have three main defences forces – an army, a navy and an air force – usually with the latter in charge of any space effort, the US already has five defence arms. In addition to the US Army, US Navy and US Air Force, it counts the Marine Corps as a separate military arm, as well as the coast guard.
Thus the new US Space Force will be formally the sixth arm in the US defence establishment once the US Congress approves the move, although as noted, it does face opposition. If it does take over the space launch and operations role from the US Air Force, it will be, in the words of President Trump, “separate but equal”.
Apart from the military use of space, Trump, ahead of a meeting of the newly formed National Space Council, made reference to the “rich guys” – US billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and their space launch vehicles, which are flown from government owned launch pads. Trump hinted that the US Government would pleased to partner with their commercial firms in their plan to explore the Moon and Mars even if they are, in effect, competitors to NASA in the space exploration race.
“If you beat us to Mars, we’ll be very happy, and you’ll be even more famous,” Trump said before adding, “if you beat us, we’re taking full credit for it.”