Space, the “final frontier,” isn’t what it used to be. In the 1960s and early 1970s I grew up a fan of NASA as well as Star Trek with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. NASA was (and is) a civilian space agency, even though its corps of astronauts was originally drawn from the ranks of military test pilots. Star Trek offered a vision of a “federation” of planets in the future, united by a vision “to explore strange new worlds,” venturing forth boldly in the cause of peace. Within the US military, space itself was considered to be the new “high ground,” admittedly a great place for spy satellites (which helped to keep the peace) but a disastrous place for war. (Of course, that didn’t prevent the military from proposing crazy ideas, like building a military base on the moon armed with nuclear-tipped missiles.)
Attracted to the space mission, my first assignment as a military officer was to Air Force Space Command. I helped to support the Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain Complex, which kept track of all objects in earth orbit, from satellites to space junk. (You don’t want a lost hammer or other space junk colliding with your billion-dollar satellite at a speed of roughly 17,000 miles per hour.) In the mid-1980s, when I was in AFSPACECOM, an offensive space force to “dominate” space was a vision shared by very few people. I had a small role to play in supporting tests of an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile launched from F-15s, but those tests were curtailed and later cancelled as the Soviet Union, considered as America’s main rival for control of space, began to collapse in the late 1980s.
But that was then, and this is now, and the “now” of the moment is a new US military service, an offensive space force, proposed by the Trump administration as essential to US national security. At TomDispatch.com, William Hartung provides the details of Trump’s new space force in this fine article. As I read Hartung’s article, a thought flashed through my mind: We’re not the peaceful Federation of Star Trek. We’re much more like the Klingon Empire.
In the original Star Trek, the Klingons were a highly aggressive and thoroughly militaristic species that was dedicated to dominating space. They were proudly imperial and driven by conquest. Trump, who with his bombast and barking and boasting would make a great Klingon, sees a “space force” that’s all military: that’s all about domination through aggressive action and better offensive weaponry.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying: Everywhere we go, there we are. Increasingly for America, that saying means: Everywhere we go, there our military and weapons are. Even in space.
The “final frontier” of space, which in my youth was largely a realm of peaceful exploration, whether by NASA in the real-world or in the imaginary future of Star Trek, is now under Trump an increasingly militarized place. This is so because our minds, perhaps humanity’s true “final frontier,” have also been thoroughly militarized.
A war-driven people will bring war with them wherever they go. If the Vulcans (like Mr. Spock, who was half-Vulcan) are smart, they won’t reach out to humans if and when we find a “warp” drive that allows us to travel much faster than the speed of light. Logical and peaceful beings that they are, perhaps they’ll quarantine earth and humanity instead. Maybe with the Vulcan equivalent of a big, fat, beautiful wall?