Notes from the desk of peace activist Polly Mann (b. Nov. 19, 1919)

How will the U.S. Armed Forces command space?

In December 2019 the U.S. Space Force was established as the sixth branch of the military. Its initial staff consisted of two, but since then it has added more than 80 Air Force Academy lieutenants and plans to have a permanent staff of 16,000 within a few years and an annual budget of $15.4 million. American strategists saw themselves as fighting a constant battle against complacency, which was challenged by the advent of the Russian Sputnik. President Lyndon Johnson’s response was the U.S. should have space superiority, and he appeared regularly on television advocating it. The U.S. still possessed the most advanced technology, which resulted in Sputnik, which led to the Apollo program. As Johnson saw it, it was in space that decisive power over humanity’s fate would be won.
The militarization of space proceeded at a leisurely pace. The first push to build orbital weaponry was the Star Wars Strategic Defense Initiative of the Reagan years. The end of the Soviet Union meant that the U.S. had command of space without the need of weapons. The U.S. still possessed the most advanced communications and spy satellites. As a result, U.S. policy would now be able to meet any interference with critical components of our space program.
The present age of astrostrategy remains for the most part concerned with satellites. A small coterie of military and aerospace analysts have considered the possibilities of space strategy far beyond the earth’s immediate periphery. In space, linear distance is less important than the energy required to travel. Because of gravity wells, far more energy is required to travel from the Earth to the moon than from the moon to Mars—a distance 150 times greater. No terrestrial conflict has yet ascended into space. U.S. space strategy has, so far, limited itself to enhancing the abilities of extraterrestrial forces. Destroying a satellite in orbit will damage or destroy other satellites. The weaponization of space is banned under the Outer Space Treaty. There is a plausible but unlikely argument that calls for space settlement expansion.

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