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Why it’s time for the Space Force

| Tuesday, August 21, 2018

On Aug. 9, Vice President Pence announced plans to move forward with the creation of President Trump’s Space Force, the sixth and newest branch of the United States military. It is expected to begin operations in 2020.

“The time has come,” said Pence, “to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation.”

It’s unprecedented. It’s controversial. And it will likely cost billions.

In the wake of Pence’s announcement, countless voices opposing the move have risen up. Some argue this is already the Air Force’s jurisdiction. Others point to the fact that adding more to our $590 billion defense budget is inexcusable. And who could ignore the fact that 43 million Americans live in abject poverty? That the nation’s children go to underfunded schools that are literally falling apart? How can we possibly justify defending against nonexistent threats in space when there are so many problems here on Earth?

Perhaps most threatening for the future is the militarization of space. In a human history that has always been marred by war, space was our final opportunity to be better. We could have embraced a new era, one in which humanity sought the stars together, without anger or suspicion or violence. We’ve yet to even scratch the surface of space exploration, and that dream is already dead.

All these arguments must be taken seriously. And I am no fan of the President’s. If you look at my past columns, you will find repudiations of Donald Trump’s character, his administration and its policies. Under almost any other circumstances, I would be glad to condemn this latest move. But I’m just too excited about going into space.

It is in space that we realize the future. No matter how successful our efforts to curb climate change, no matter how much we devote to conservation, we will one day have to leave Earth behind. It is a very distant reality, but one we must begin to prepare for at some point. The Space Force may help us to do that.

This is to say nothing of what we already owe to space travel. The 20th century NASA missions produced a number of innovative technologies we rely on today, including laptops, velcro and LED lights. We got a great movie in “Apollo 13.” We inspired a generation to look to the night sky with wonder and curiosity, with the belief that we are not confined to this planet but that it is indeed possible to reach further. We learned that Manifest Destiny did not have to end at the Pacific. The frontier continues on.

When John F. Kennedy gave his famous “We choose to go to the moon” speech in 1962, he invigorated the nation. We didn’t have the technology. We didn’t even know if what he promised was possible. But we were going to do everything in our power to make it possible. And we did. Just seven years later, we produced perhaps the greatest achievement in the history of mankind, and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. We proved, unequivocally, that there is no limit to human potential. When we unite toward one common goal with confidence and vigor in our hearts, we can achieve wonders. The Space Force is a far less noble goal than putting a man on the moon. But perhaps it can inspire in a new generation that same belief in human potential and in our future.

There is an entire universe teeming with possibility just outside our current grasp. What it has in store for us, its mysteries and promises, are beyond what any of us could even dream of. The Space Force is, admittedly, a little silly. Maybe we don’t need to defend the galaxy quite yet. But I’m ready to. It’s time we went to the stars.

Patrick McKelvey splits his time between being a college junior and a grumpy old man. A New Jersey native and American Studies major, he plans on pursuing a legal career after graduating Notre Dame. If you can’t find him at the movies, he can be reached for comment at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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