President Donald J. Trump has announced that he has ordered the formation of a sixth branch of the U.S. military, adding the "Space Force" to the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy. Trump made the announcement at a meeting of the National Space Council on June 18, saying that "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space." According to Trump, the Department of Defense and Pentagon would "immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces… We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the space force, separate but equal…"
A proposal to form a separate "Space Corps" was made last June in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018, but the idea was later dropped due to a lack of support from the Armed Services Committee. Currently, military operations in space are conducted by the Joint Force Space Component (formerly the Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC SPACE)), a component of the Air Force. This organization conducts defense-related satellite operations, and is the operator of the world’s only operating reusable spaceplane, the Boeing X-37b.
However, the decision to form another military branch, something that hasn’t been done since the formation of the Air Force in 1947, would rest with Congress, and there is a measure of opposition to the idea: In a letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Secretary of Defense (and former USMC general) Jim Mattis said "Space Corps: I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions." Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson was also opposed to last year’s proposal; when asked about Trump’s recent announcement, she said that she welcomed the president and vice president’s leadership on space operations.
This Space Force is unlikely to include silver-suited spacemen armed with jetpacks and laser rifles in the near future, as the United States currently lacks manned launch capabilities, but would rather take up the responsibilities currently held by the Air Force’s Joint Force Space Component, consisting of primarily unmanned satellite and X-37b spaceplane missions. However, the 2019 House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) seeks to expand the Air Force’s current "Space Warfighting" capabilities, although the organization would remain within the Air Force.
Trump also brought up his directive to return American astronauts to the Moon, not only to establish a permanent presence there, but also as a stepping stone for a manned mission to Mars. But the US military doesn’t appear to be content in taking a drawn-out, months-long journey to the Red Planet, as evidenced by a Defense Intelligence Agency document titled "Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions". The 34-page document, initially published in 2010, was created as part of the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), and obtained by Las Vegas’ KLAS-TV in May 2018. The document outlines current mainstream theories regarding faster-than-light travel, with a focus on wormholes and warp drives.
"The warp drive — the main focus of this paper — involves local manipulation of the fabric of space in the immediate vicinity of the spacecraft," according to the paper. "The basic idea is to create an asymmetric bubble of space that is contracting in front of the spacecraft while expanding behind it. Using this form of locomotion, the spacecraft remains stationary inside this ‘warp bubble,’ and the movement of space itself facilitates the relative motion of the spacecraft."
While the DIA document outlines the concepts behind achieving superluminal speeds, it is unable to explain what needs to be done to shorten a trip to Mars from months to minutes.
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