The U.S. Space Force is preparing for a space war beyond the Earth’s orbit as its Chinese and Russian counterparts move to exert their dominance over the final frontier.
According to a report by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the plan is designed to oppose China and Russia’s joint effort at claiming cislunar space — the volume of space outside of Earth’s orbit but within the moon’s gravitational pull, the Washington Times reports. The plan was outlined in a memorandum between the Space Force and NASA, made public this week after China and Russia issued plans for a joint research station to be constructed on the surface of the moon.
Both Russia and China’s space programs are deeply aligned with their military organizations, and the development of a moon base would offer both countries a significant advantage in the race to control cislunar space.
The memo, which is dated to September, extends the U.S. military’s mission beyond near Earth to reach all the 272,000 miles to the moon. The extension of Space Force, which was established by former President Donald Trump, calls upon “guardians” (the Space Force’s official designation for its personnel) to develop greater surveillance assets in what the military calls “space domain awareness” in the event of a space war.
The Space Force doctrine states that “humankind has changed, and our potential adversaries’ actions have significantly increased the likelihood of warfare in the space domain.”
To reinforce Space Force’s efforts, NASA will extend its manned explorations to the moon’s surface, returning once again to the Sea of Tranquility after many decades. NASA will also perform manned explorations to interplanetary destinations, to Mars and beyond.
The Washington Times reports:
The National Space Council’s July 2020 report, “A New Era for Deep Space Exploration and Development,” predicts the moon’s surface and cislunar space will be used to develop new technologies, operational capabilities and commercial space systems for human presence on the moon, Mars and beyond.
The Space Force does not have a direct role in civil exploration but must support combatant commands to ensure free access to space. The memo expanded the Space Force’s mission to the moon and planets.
“[U.S. Space Force] now has an even greater surveillance task for space domain awareness (SDA) in that region, but its current capabilities and architecture are limited by technologies and an architecture designed for a legacy mission,” the memo stated. It noted that American space troops must now “provide the resources necessary to protect and defend vital U.S. interests in and beyond Earth orbit.”