Star Wars? President Trump proposes military space force

Trump's offhand remark about military space force could change the course of US space policy. (Reuters)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Star Wars? President Trump proposes military space force

WASHINGTON: America should create its own separate military space force, President Donald Trump mentioned in an offhand remark Tuesday that would change the course of US space policy.
But don’t expect Captain Kirk ordering phasers set on stun, Battlestar Galactica or ray guns blazing in orbit in the near future, space experts said. And some said a military space force may make it harder to keep Earth’s orbit a place of peace.
Saying his national security strategy “recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said at a San Diego Marine Corps base that he’s considering “a space force” that would be the equivalent of the Air Force, Army and Navy.
Trump said at first he wasn’t serious when he floated the concept, but “then I said what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.”
This is more about boosting reconnaissance and cybersecurity than fighting in orbit, said Sean O’Keefe, who was both NASA administrator and Navy secretary under President George W. Bush.
Trump’s own defense secretary and Air Force secretary argued vociferously against it when members of Congress pushed it last year, O’Keefe said. You can emphasize more help for the military in space without going to the massive organizational change and expense, he said.
It could be a bureaucratic nightmare, said O’Keefe, a professor at Syracuse University.
He said some people may argue that a space force would “compromise the sanctity of considering space to be off limits from warfare.”
Ever since the Space Age started with the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, there has been a military and national security aspect to space, even though there are treaties and a United Nations committee that explicitly talk about keeping space a place of peace. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower established two separate space programs — a civilian one that became NASA, and a military one. NASA is much more public, but the military program is just as big.
The military space program has mostly been led by the Air Force. For the past several years, the military has been flying an unmanned space plane, a lot like the retired civilian space shuttle but smaller, experts said.
“It’s really what we’re already doing but giving elevated status to the mission,” American University space expert Howard McCurdy said of Trump’s proposal.
The military toyed with the idea of an Air Force space station in orbit in the 1960s, but President Richard Nixon’s administration killed the idea, mostly because it found that robotic space efforts were more effective and efficient, McCurdy said.
McCurdy, O’Keefe and others said any space force would probably consist of cadets on the ground operating robotic systems in space.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronautics professor and former NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman said she prefers space to be as peaceful as possible.
“Space is for exploration and lifting up humanity,” Newman said. “We should learn from our mistakes on Earth and keep space peaceful.”


10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

Updated 27 min 22 sec ago
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10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

  • Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police.
  • Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
MANAGUA: Violent protests against a proposed change to Nicaragua's pension system have left at least 10 people dead over two days, the government said Friday.
In the biggest protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office in this poor Central American country, people are angry over the plan because workers and employers would have to chip in more toward the retirement system.
The government is willing to hold a dialogue and Ortega will issue a formal call on Saturday, Vice President Rosario Murillo said, adding: "At least 10 compatriots have died."
Demonstrations rocked the capital Managua and nearby cities for a third day.
The new law, besides increasing employer and employee contributions, would cut the overall pension amount by five percent.
"We are against these reforms, which means we're against this government taking from the pockets of Nicaraguans," said Juan Bautista.
He said riot police brutally attacked demonstrators like him because "the dictator does not like people to protest."
A woman nearby shouted: "The people are tired of this repression!"
Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police. Other students took refuge in nearby buildings or residences.
In Las Colinas, south of the capital, demonstrators raised small barricades and with their hands raised asked the riot police not to target them.
Four independent television outlets were taken off the air after they broadcast the demonstrations on Thursday, and two were still blocked on Friday.
Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
The opposition said more than 20 people were wounded while the writers group Pen Nicaragua said that at least 11 journalists were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
"We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to act to prevent further attacks on demonstrators and on the media," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights."
She urged the government to let people "exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association," and urged protesters to demonstrate "peacefully."
She also said demonstrators were attacked by government supporters in the city of Masaya.
Miguel Mora, director of the private television channel 100% Noticias -- which the government blocked -- accused Ortega of applying the same censorship he imposed in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution.
When Ortega returned to power in 2007 he promised to "never censor a media outlet -- and today he is doing just that," Mora told Channel 14.