Instead of Wasting Money on Trump’s Space Force, Let’s Reinvigorate NASA
By now most American readers are probably aware of Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement that the Trump administration will be establishing a new military branch: the United States Space Force. Since President Trump publicly floated the idea earlier this year, the notion has been met with derision and mockery — and for good reason.
This week the president signed off on an enormous $717 billion defense budget, but before doing so he tried to justify his push to create the Space Force by explaining that countries like China have already taken similar steps.
Among the various glaring flaws with this plan is the fact that the United States already has a military branch that covers space — the U.S. Air Force, which has a dedicated department called the U.S. Air Force Space Command. It already oversees space-based defense systems and includes the California-based Space and Missile Systems Center.
The White House’s plan, per Pence, would establish a separate institution, beginning with $8 billion in funding over five years. However, the Space Force would ultimately require far more Congress-approved funds.
Not only is a Space Force wholly unnecessary, but it would also consume much needed funding that would be better spent on the United States’ original space agency, NASA.
Here are a few reasons Trump and Pence should consider before they make the Space Force a reality.
NASA Produces Important Tech and Science Advancements
It’s difficult to understate the contributions space travel has contributed to what many of us take for granted on a daily basis. In fact, you’ve almost certainly used a NASA invention today — perhaps even while reading this sentence.
Things including the computer mouse, miniaturized cameras — now used in mobile phones — sports shoes, water purifiers, modern home insulation and even baby formula sprung into common use after NASA scientists had to solve novel problems presented by space exploration.
NASA Encourages Global Cooperation and Promotes Peace
Though NASA was once limited in its role during the Cold War-era Space Race, the agency — along with various international counterparts, such as the European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos — is characterized by cooperative efforts that span the globe.
And as the name suggests, the International Space Station is the ultimate achievement of such cooperation. While the ISS has certainly been a boon for scientific advancement, it also stands as a supreme example of global teamwork. Currently the ISS has had visitors from 18 different countries.
NASA Promotes Optimism and Hope For the Future
Remember when you were young and adults would ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some children responded with “fireman” or “doctor,” but plenty — boys and girls alike — also answered astronaut. Sure, not all of them grew up to join NASA, but space exploration has long been revered as a noble pursuit that’s stimulated the curiosity of multiple generations.
In this age of seemingly relentless pessimism, surely we would rather have future generations share in this hope and excitement about the possibilities of the future?
The White House places NASA’s budget for 2018 at $19.1 billion — only slightly more than double the initial annual funding for the proposed Space Force. Imagine if that $8 billion were instead poured into NASA and the International Space Station; wouldn’t that be a better path to encouraging international cooperation and peace than further militarizing space?
Originally published at Care2.com on Aug. 22, 2018.