All Things Soldier: A New Space Race?

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Here in Rocket City, we have spent the week celebrating what is inarguably one of the most remarkable things man has ever done: get to the moon, land on the moon, and return to earth safely. Tomorrow it will have been a full half-century since close to 400,000 people came together to make Apollo 11 a success. In terms of aviation history, not much else since has been able to compare. When we lived out in Gurley, we had a tree service and had an account to clear some property that had been purchased by a man who had been part of the event. As he spoke of it, it was almost as though there was some grief over the fact that for the rest of his career, nothing else ever came close. Apollo 11 changed lives in ways that no one could have foreseen.
As a side note, if you have not yet had the chance to see the newest documentary on Apollo 11, you owe it to yourself. It’s called, not surprisingly, Apollo 11, and is produced by CNN. This has stunning and recently rediscovered footage of 70mm film taken from cameras mounted on the landing module that has been incorporated into the body of the film, and what was moving to me as I watched it was the vulnerability of the documentarians as they revealed that they wept the first time they saw it. The footage was pristine, and oddly made you feel like you were coming down the ladder right behind Neil and Buzz. And, if you happen to be a person who believes we never landed on the moon in the first place, I think you’ll have a hard time continuing with your premise after seeing Apollo 11. Seeing it will make you proud to be an American and that JFK’s dream was realized.

This leads to the more important point and the actual set of thoughts to be considered in this Soldier. Historians will tell you that while JFK might have had an explorer’s heart, there was something else with which he was having to wrestle when he told us, accurately, that we would be on the moon within the decade. It was the time of the Cold War, he knew that the USSR would take it to space if they could, and in order to defend America, we would have to quickly get to the surface of the moon which Buzz Aldrin described as “magnificent desolation.”

What no one anticipated was that the Chinese would become the first to officially form a Space Force, and experience tells us that nations who subscribe to the philosophy of communism typically need to be taken seriously. So, once again, it looks like we are going to have to scramble to catch up, and I believe we should, we can, and we will.

On the 4th of July, President Trump presented a moving tribute to our nation, its history, and its branches of service. He also resolutely told us that indeed we shall have a Space Force, a sixth branch, the first since the Air Force was formed in 1947. About a year ago the President instructed the Pentagon to begin to put it together, and it is to be ready for rollout by 2020.

And while it seems like history is trying to repeat itself, as is often the case, I think we should, as a nation, get behind the formation of the Space Force. If it turns out we don’t end up needing to protect ourselves from the Chinese or anyone else, then in my view, what we learn about space will be worth the cost. The arguments against are the same as when we landed on the moon 50 years ago, and are variations on the theme of “that money could have been used for the poor.” The more things change, the more they remain the same…wouldn’t you agree?
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner