On January 28th, 1986, I watched live on television as the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I can only compare the shocking feeling to one other time in my life, and that was 9/11, as I watched the twin towers fall. The Challenger disaster took not only the lives of seven astronauts but effectively the life of our entire space program as well. After that tragedy, Americans no longer had nearly the hunger to conquer space as we once did. Indeed, we have gone back, and run missions relatively regularly, but the national appetite for conquering the final frontier effectively went up in smoke with the Challenger and her crew that day. All these years later, the appetite has returned; we’ve landed a rover on Mars, and we are now pursuing the outer limits with gusto once again.
And now, there’s even a Space Force on the table.
The “Space Force” idea is not unique or new to Donald Trump, but it might be one of his best branding ideas, and frankly is one of the most important projects he’s championed.
Let me explain.
On the surface, the Space Force seems like a ludicrous idea that a Star Wars/Trek fan fiction writer might come up with, and is widely ridiculed by a great many people, especially those on the left. The very name conjures up X-Wings, Death Stars, and colossal lasers in outer space. We will address that, but let’s look at a bit of history for some context, and lets establish one thing first: We already do have a “space force,” the Air Force Space Command, which is a division of the Air Force, in much the same way that the Air Force used to be a division of the army before it was separated and given its own branch in 1947. At the time, it was becoming increasingly evident that air power was the future of warfare; thus it was necessary to make the Air Force its own entity. Also, there has been legislation for a “space corps” floating around for some time, and of course, some of you will remember the “Star Wars” programs of the Reagan Era.
Why then is it so critical to designate an entirely new branch of the military? Why not just continue to allow the Air Force to handle space assets?
First, our assets in space at this point are nearly priceless. Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson, noted progressive scientist who opposes nearly everything Trump does, did not dismiss the idea of a Space Force due to the vast amount of satellites we control that provide hundreds of billions to our economy in the form of GPS and other types of data. Protecting such a vast network that is critical to our economy is far from an absurd idea; ask yourself what sort of irreparable damage would be caused if our satellite networks were breached either remotely or physically. In other words, our assets alone make a reasonably strong case for the creation of a Space Force as technological warfare extends beyond air, sea, and ground.
Secondly, the budgeting and funding for space-related activities gets a monumental upgrade. In my more liberal days, it drove me insane that we didn’t fund NASA and space exploration as I felt we should, and even the left will tell you that space exploration and funding should be a significant cornerstone of our spending. Think of this: From 1958 to 2018 the entire budget of NASA was about 601.3 Billion, not per year, in total. We just funded the military over 639.1 billion in a single year, so wrapping the Space Force into the military budget would have incredible implications for funding potential of space missions and innovation. NASA does fantastic work, but they have significant limitations in what they can handle, as their scope is more civilian in nature and they function as an independent agency. If the Space Force were a co-equal branch, it would allow us to shift budgets to match the need, as we have done over the years ramping up Air Force spending.
Third, and most importantly I believe, is the innovation factor. When we push the frontiers of space, it requires our boldest thinking, forcing ideas outside of regularly established norms. Go ahead and have a look at the laundry list of modern inventions and innovations that came about as a direct result of the space program. All of the aforementioned innovations came about on a budget that has generally been less than 1% of the federal budget. Now imagine we have a co-equal branch of the military, entirely devoted to space, with 10x the budget, and the shackles of limitations removed. The Space Force could quite literally accelerate innovation at a level we haven’t seen in decades, possibly ever. In addition, that says nothing about the potential economic boom that these massive innovations could bring to the country.
Now we come to the brilliant part: the branding. I believe President Trump and Vice President Pence know all of the advantages mentioned above, but how then do you sell the idea? What you don’t do is say, “Yes, I would like to increase the budget of the Air Force Space Command by XX%.” No, that doesn’t excite anyone, nor does it move the needle on public opinion. To do that, you need something powerful and bold, that generates strong feelings on both sides and gets people talking.
You need the Space Force.
Every single time the President brings it up, it trends on Twitter and generates headlines. So strong is the persuasion engineering that people cannot help talking about it, and it guarantees a response. Think about the name Space Force. The very name sounds bold, with force being an incredibly powerful word on its own, coupled with our love of space, which conjures up the unknown, and fantastical horizons yet explored. This is Trump doing what Trump does, taking an idea and branding it into people’s minds in much the same way he did with Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, and Low Energy Jeb. Considering everything I wrote about in this article and distilling it into two words that fire the imagination. The administration even managed to release six logos for people to vote on, which got people talking even more. As an aside, I like the blue shield with the rocket.
My only regret is that I’m too old to sign up. Let’s do this, and get back to where we belong, on the razor’s edge of exploring the outer reaches of space.
I endorse the Space Force, and so should you.
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Steve is the author of Forging the Iron Mind, and is the founder and CEO of Americana Prime.