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.”


Thai cave boys to leave hospital

Updated 18 July 2018
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Thai cave boys to leave hospital

  • The “Wild Boars” football team are being discharged a day earlier than announced
  • Doctors have advised families of the boys, aged 11 to 16, that they should avoid letting them have contact with journalists for at least one month after they are discharged

CHIANG RAI, Thailand: Twelve boys and their football coach rescued from a cave in Thailand will leave hospital Wednesday and speak to the media for the first time, a government spokesman said.
The “Wild Boars” football team are being discharged a day earlier than announced and authorities hope that by holding the question and answer session before they head home it will satisfy the huge interest in their story.
“The reason to hold this evening press conference is so media can ask them questions and after that they can go back to live their normal lives without media bothering them,” Thailand’s chief government spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said.
But with experts warning of possible long-term distress from the ordeal inside the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand, this will be no ordinary briefing.
The public relations department in Chiang Rai province solicited questions from news outlets ahead of time and they will be forwarded to psychiatrists for screening.
Called “Sending the Wild Boars Home” and broadcast on major television channels, the session will last for about 45 minutes, Sunsern said, adding that it would be conducted in an informal style with a moderator.
“They are likely to return home immediately after the press conference,” he said.
Doctors have advised families of the boys, aged 11 to 16, that they should avoid letting them have contact with journalists for at least one month after they are discharged.
Though they and their coach are all said to be in good mental and physical health, health officials say that additional psychological monitoring will be provided to detect lingering trauma.
The daring Thai-led international effort to rescue the “Wild Boars” captivated the world after they walked into the cave on June 23 and were trapped by rising floodwaters.
After nine days without a steady supply of food or water they were found emaciated and huddled in a group on a muddy ledge by British divers several kilometers inside Tham Luang.
Rescuers debated on the best plan to bring them out but ultimately decided on a risky operation that involved diving them through waterlogged passages while they were sedated to keep them calm and carrying them out in military-grade stretchers.
Not even the foreign cave diving specialists who took part were sure the mission would work and many expressed relief when it was all over after the final five were rescued on July 10.