The view that fiction belongs on modern military reading lists is becoming mainstream. One only need look at the titles on the reading lists put out by US Special Operations Command or the senior officers of the Navy and Marine Corps to see that it has a valued place in military professional development. And this is not limited to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Fiction, and specifically science fiction and future-war fiction, is going mainstream in Western militaries.
In sport, it is harder to imagine equipment with a tougher life than a hockey puck. It survives on the ice because it is made from rubber. To an engineer like Dr. Peter Wegner, former head of the Defense Department’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space, it is a perfect model of resilience. An understanding of resilience is especially important when it comes to America’s national security policy toward military and commercial satellites.
Dr. Wegner, currently Director of Advanced Concepts at Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory, and Charles Miller, a former NASA advisor who is president of NexGen Space LLC, joined an American Security Project panel in Washington on Thursday to talk about the asymmetric threats to U.S. space assets. It’s a long list, from Chinese anti-satellite missiles to errant space junk to determined hackers. Given how fragile and vulnerable satellites are, and how dependent the military is upon them, America needs a far more robust launch capability in order to replace those systems when they are inevitably damaged or destroyed during a crisis. That has not happened yet, but it is certain to.
During the Cold War, Americans looked to the heavens and grappled with near-existential questions about our country’s pursuit of technical superiority over its primary foe, the Soviet Union. The emerging space domain was, to use the phrase later popularized by the Star Trek series, the final frontier. The Soviet Sputnik satellite launch in 1957 jolted the American political consciousness and dented a sense of inevitable technological advantage in the post-war world. Space quickly became the high ground, militarily, technologically and morally speaking, for the United States to take back.
Space remains the strategic high ground. After more than a decade of war in the Middle East and Central Asia it is important to acknowledge the direct tactical connections to America’s armed forces. As remotely piloted aircraft become a staple of U.S. military and intelligence operations, their links to pilots thousands of miles away depend on satellite technology. That is just another indicator that as America navigates a post-war period, U.S. power cannot be measured in the 21st Century without accounting for the safety and security of our military space access.
The U.S. is not alone in seeing the importance of space in its national narrative. China’s President Xi Jinping reportedly told air force officers that he wants the People’s Liberation Army to have a more robust space role. Read more at the American Security Project’s Flashpoint blog.