President Donald Trump recently has been advocating for a “Space Force.” Though this invited criticism, the United States has shown a keen interest in the past deeming it as a move for self-defense and non-aggressive military activities. However, since this idea has been brought up, many observers have come up with various theories and strategies on how it can be made more useful.
The one most captivating claim is that the force could be used as a defense mechanism against asteroids in the earth’s orbit.
In a report, produced on June 20, NASA along with state officials presented their plans for the next ten years, called the "The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan.” In it, they elaborated on the idea of recognizing and detecting asteroids and defending the Earth from them.
Aaron Miles said, “One of the things that should be clear from the report is that the responsibility for responding, and preparing a response, is spread and shared throughout the U.S. government.” Though he might not have mentioned the space force by its name, it is apparent that any defensive action against asteroids would involve some scale of military activity and technology in space.
NASA, along with the U.S officials have come up with three to provide guards against incoming asteroids. These include a “Gravity Tractor,” which would essentially deviate the asteroid away from its original course. A “Kinetic Impactor” which would involve a spacecraft thrashing the asteroid off thoroughly. And the last, a nuclear strike on the incoming asteroid, which would vaporize the surface of the asteroid and push it off course.
However, NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson told reporters that all options mentioned above would need a minimum of 10 years before a potential asteroid strike, to be effective. He added that robots instead of astronauts could complete all the processes.
Trump has also passed orders to the Department of Defense to produce an additional branch in the U.S armed forces for the Space Force. As of now, the space force is majorly controlled by the Air Force currently in place.
NASA’s tentative budget for 2019 goes up to $150 million to finance the development asteroid defense; Johnson told reporters.
Considering a significant asteroid impact would threaten the whole international community and not just one region, Johnson also said, “Planetary defense is a team sport, we welcome capability wherever it comes.”