Space force

Reviews | The US Space Force is preparing to weaponize space. Good.

Height control has always been essential in military strategy. Humanity’s ability to place hundreds of objects in Earth orbit, and even in lunar orbit, extends this geographical fact. Just as he who controls the air can control the ground, he who controls space can control the air – and, therefore, the globe.

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This is especially true for the United States, whose military power relies on its ability to use satellites to observe enemy movements and target precision munitions. If an enemy could destroy our satellites, it would disrupt our communications, obscure our intelligence, and eliminate one of our primary military advantages.

But Earth orbit is only one aspect of US capabilities in space. As frightening and dangerous as a confrontation in this realm can be, there is another higher ground to worry about: the moon and assets placed in lunar orbit. Military planners have called the area between the Moon and Earth “cislunar space,” and they know that denying an adversary control of this region is now critical to American security, because the countries that control it have the potential to disrupt US operations in Earth orbit.

It’s not a hypothetical threat. China has worked steadily for years to improve its ability to contest or control cislunar space. It made the first-ever landing on the far side of the Moon in 2019 and announced plans to establish a permanent base on the Moon. China’s space agency says all of these projects are science-based, but the potential military advantage Beijing could rack up if that’s not true is too great to ignore.

That’s why it’s good that Space Force and the Pentagon prepare their own projects. Politico reports that this includes plans for lunar-orbiting spy satellites and a lunar surveillance system called the Cislunar Highway Patrol System. Some argue for even more, such as developing a capability to engage in military activities beyond geostationary Earth orbit. Spaceships and TIE fighters aren’t in our immediate future, but it’s likely that the United States will develop some sort of capability to project power on and around the moon over the next few decades.

There is a thin line between protective measures and provocation, and the United States should be wary of this line as it advances. But we have seen that the word of autocrats is not to be trusted. China suppressed freedom in Hong Kong despite a treaty obligation not to, and it continues to deny its genocide in Xinjiang despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The United States cannot simply take Beijing’s words at face value when it comes to space.

Space is the ultimate frontier of national defense. The only question is whether democracies or autocracies will control this vital realm. Supporting Space Force efforts gives freedom a fighting chance.