Besides the NewSpace movement within the commercial space market, there are two other forces that are fueling interest in space—one is seeking militarization of space (notably Earth orbit), and the other is looking to colonize the Moon and Mars.
Much to my surprise, the effort to create a military Space Force is still alive and, in fact, appears to be gaining a little momentum. Yes, Congress is not onboard with the idea, but at least it’s still being discussed and written about in a somewhat serious manner. In other words, it’s not a joke.
The Air Force has estimated that establishing a Space Force would cost about $13 billion over five years. But, as I’ve noted before, most of this money would go simply toward assembling the bricks and mortar of a new bureaucracy and paying for administering the process of transferring responsibilities and ensuring there are no redundancies. It would mean taking away money from actual programs. I’m not a big fan of that.
Frankly, I’d rather take that money and give it to NASA to spend on human spaceflight, exploration and colonization. NASA’s current budget of $19-20 billion is a mere pittance for the kind of work that it should be doing in partnership with private industry. Landings on the Moon and Mars and eventual colonization of those heavenly bodies seem to be in the cards during the next decade, but nobody’s talking costs and funding sources.
So there’s a big disconnect between reality and vision. There is not enough money to do the really cool stuff in space that might actually advance humanity and, at the same, pay for things like setting up a dedicated structure for supposedly better preparing for battlefields in space. Besides, the two paths feel rather contradictory. If we’re going to be anticipating carrying our ground, sea and air conflicts into orbit, then we’re nowhere close to being mature enough to mess with our Moon and other planets.