There's (apparently) terror on the high seas! And we mean really high. Like, sky-high. Literally. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas sounded the alarm earlier this week during a special hearing of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space to discuss "The Emerging Space Environment: Operational, Technical, and Policy Challenges." Good for the Senate for continuing to make space exploration a priority. Or, well, that's probably at least a priority for some.
The priority for Cruz, it would seem, is to ramp up construction of a U.S. space fleet, complete with space marines, to bring a little law and order to the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere — and beyond. Addressing the hearing on Tuesday, Cruz declared, "Nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne traffic and commerce from bad actors." Wait, he's not really going to go there, is he?
Oh, yeah. He went there. Expanding on his point, Cruz added, "Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we, too, must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration." Um, sure. Pirates kind of still exist on the open ocean, ergo there will be space pirates up there before we know it. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Romulan ale, right?
Maybe Elon Musk and Richard Branson are not as benign in their budding space tourism "war" as we've been led to suppose. And it's at least possible that someone could attempt to steal a few satellites. Although it's not like you'd want to go up in a rocket, snatch a satellite, and return to Earth. Beyond a certain amount of potentially salvageable (and black marketable?) metals and technology, a satellite is not really worth anything unless it stays in space.
So it maybe doesn't track that we ought to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to assemble and deploy a Space Force immediately. On the other hand, it's good, especially in this 50th-anniversary year of the Apollo 11 moon landing, to keep our eyes on the skies. The advances in computer technology achieved through the original space race almost incalculably improved the human condition. The more that we reach for the stars, the better things will become here on the ground.
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