Not Space Force. Space Forces. Forces Plural.

By Carl Slaughter: When Trump announced a space force, the late-night comedians had a field day.

But Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is this generation’s Carl Sagan, has been making the rounds of the talk shows to say that the idea of a space force is not fundamentally flawed.

I would go further.  Much further.

Tucked away in an article about China going to Mars and the Moon is a sentence that jumped out at me:  One of the craters on the far side of the Moon is iron rich.

We haven’t seen a soil sample from that crater or a gas sample from Jupiter or an ice sample from Saturn’s rings or a metal sample from the Asteroid Belt.  So we have not yet gotten excited about space mining.

But we will.  When we have lab confirmation that those resources are available and realize they are within our grasp, we’re going to decide to mine space, just as we decided to walk on the Moon, and we’re going to make it happen.

And that’s when we will have high-stakes claims wars  –  and sabotage and espionage and assassination.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, geopolitics and economies will go through upheaval in response to what’s happening in space.

Meanwhile, out in space, colonies will declare their independence, just as America and India did, and try to nationalize the resources they were sent there to mine.

Those mother countries are going to say to those colonists, “We financed that colony.  If you want to be independent, you can start your own colony.  If not, prepare to be executed, exiled, or imprisoned.”

It’s going to be something out of a science fiction story.  Yeah, there’ s gonna be space forces.  Forces plural.

The Pentagon, the Russians, and the Chinese have all demonstrated the capacity to shoot down satellites.  We have manned shuttles and manned space stations.  We have already landed on the Moon.  It’s only a matter of time, and probably in our lifetime, before Elon Musk or NASA or someone builds a colony on Mars.

Eventually, some clever scientists will find a way to mine those gases, metals, and ice.  Then other clever scientists will find a way to transport all those resources to Earth cheaply.

Wormholes, FLT, mass transfer.  They are distant, but their day will arrive.

The day is coming when a space force will make as much sense as a police force, a naval force, and an air force.

16 thoughts on “Not Space Force. Space Forces. Forces Plural.

  1. Yes, sure, the day will come when a space force makes sense.

    Right now, Trump is exercising his ego and his ignorance.

    We’re not going to be mining in space soon.

    We’re parties to a treaty, with 106 other countries, committing not to militarize space. It’s likely that will eventually need to be either renegotiated or scrapped, but we’re not even close to the point where that would be advantageous. Trump is just expressing his ignorance and waving his dick around, and encouraging our rivals and adversaries to think maybe they’d better start planning for Trump to commit us to something that actively threatens them.

    Eventually, we’ll need law enforcement and national defense in space. Trump is not interested in law enforcement or national defense. He thinks being the bigger bully makes him “respected,” and just assumes that no one prior to him has ever thought about space-based threats.

    He’s an ignorant, thoughtless bully, and Tyson plucking a strand from his ravings to spin off a discussion of more serious issues doesn’t change that.

  2. We’re not going to be mining in space soon.

    Before NASA, before Goddard, before we even broke out of the atmosphere, you would have been written off for predicting we would walk on the Moon. Before radio, anyone who predicted wireless communication in their lifetime would have been laughed at. Imagine telling people in the days of horses and lanterns and smoke signals, “Your grandchildren will string very long pieces of metal all over the country and even across the ocean and they’ll use these metal strings to send and receive messages.” In the 20th century, we wiped out major diseases that in the 19th century were considered insurmountable. Captain Kirk used technology unseen to audiences at the time, but William Shatner is now using those gadgets. Star Trek technology in one generation. Before JFK said, “Let’s do this,” we weren’t seriously trying to put a man on the Moon. Within a decade after deciding to do it, we watched it happen on TV, another technology all but considered magic in our grandparents’ generation. “Soon” is all too often relative to our level of determination. We’ll be mining space “soon” after we commit to mining space.

  3. There was a time when photosynthesis was doctrinaire. It was in every science textbook. We were taught it during our first science lesson in our first year of school. Any science teacher who dared to challenge it would soon be switching occupations. But there came a day when we arrived at the bottom of the ocean and discovered a massive and sophisticated ecosystem thriving with life where no ray of sunshine reached. At the moment, our ambitions for space travel, space residence, and space mining seem to be limited by trajectory and propulsion issues. But let’s not start making time frame predictions based on our CURRENT level of technology or our CURRENT understanding of how the universe works.

  4. One problem all SF writers struggle with, some unconsciously: CURRENT IGNORANCE IS NOT ETERNAL. Tyson understands that. Failure to understand it means limiting our vision of the future to what is considered possible now. As Carl Slaughter points out, that precludes present tech, quite “impossible” by earlier standards.

  5. Before Goddard, we were decades away from people walking on the moon.

    That there are interesting and useful ideas and concepts to discuss about what we’ll need if/when we start real development in space, and discussion needn’t and shouldn’t wait till it’s imminent, doesn’t change the fact that Trump was ignorantly grandstanding, oblivious to real issues of science, technology, and international treaties.

    Tyson using that as a jumping off point is Tyson being this generation’s Sagan–a good science communicator to a broad, general audience. It doesn’t transform Trump into someone who made a useful contribution to the discussion.

  6. It’d be nice, but Nixon was only a crook, not a lazy, ignorant, belligerent idiot. Trump is far more likely to set us back in anything he touches.

  7. Musk wants to die watching Phobos and Deimos overhead. You can’t not wish him luck. But once there is proof of concept how to lasso an asteroid and bring it home, the private sector will no longer be calling the shots. Won’t be long.

  8. I agree with Lis. And if we do mining in space, it will almost certainly be done with robots. And, if necessary, a robotic space force. I hope it won’t be necessary, but I also doubt the premise. Unless the goods to be obtained are to be used on site, they’d better be incredibly valuable to justify the expense of bringing them back to Earth. Maybe some of the rare earths we are using up in our electronics. Iron, however, seems unlikely to be worth the expense to bring back down the gravity well, even with robots.

  9. I wish the money going to the space force could go to NASA instead. But if dark mummerings about future wars is what it takes to get space exploration funded, I’ll take it.

  10. @OGH: was it just a coincidence that this was the first item after the Pixel Scroll pointing to JDN’s detailed takedown of the idea of colonizing space?

    @Carl (re to @Lis): all of those inventions were easy next to getting lots of mass even as far as LEO, let alone anywhere worth mining. Most of them involved step-by-step building on existing knowledge, not some sort of Ramanujan flash of inspiration; where’s the knowledge that gives us even the beginning of an idea of how to get mass off Earth cheaply?

  11. Chip Hitchcock: @OGH: was it just a coincidence that this was the first item after the Pixel Scroll pointing to JDN’s detailed takedown of the idea of colonizing space?

    It was serendipity. Carl pitched his idea for the post awhile ago, and some news developments helped it reach critical mass late this week.

  12. I personally think that control of the near earth orbit is critical, and having the ability to travel easily to the moon and back is very important. But I can disagree with the necessity of yet another bureaucratic, sclerotic department of the Pentagon.

    At the rate we are supporting basic research, I suspect the space cops with be speaking Mandarin.

    Because right now, we are not funding that basic research. We lost the ability to even boost our own large payloads into LEO, much less return to the moon. I fail to see how creating a “Space Force” solves that problem.

  13. You can pretty much tell the nature of this rant by this statement :

    Wormholes, FLT, mass transfer. They are distant, but their day will arrive.

    Bottom line? This isn’t a prediction or a call to action, it’s fantasy. The Universe is under no obligation to make things possible, just because we want them to be true. We are not going to have FTL travel, traversable wormholes or “mass transfer”. I could equally reasonably change that paragraph to say:

    “Psychokinesis. Curses. Dragons. Predestination. They are distant, but their day will arrive.”

    Likewise the economics of space colonization. People keep trying and trying to handwave it away, but there is no economic motivation for colonization, and no research need that requires permanent colonies- or really, much human presence at all. So what if there’s iron on the moon? We have plenty of iron on Earth, and it can accessed far more cheaply. The circular logic is that in-situ resources can be used for colonies…which are needed to mine the in-situ resources. But try to say WHY those resources are worth getting, and well…

    The cold, hard fact is that keeping humans alive in space is far harder and more expensive than we thought, and the justifications for having humans in space are far weaker. No vigorous handwaving and appeals to emotion will change that.

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