As the administration moves forward with establishing a new military service focused on space, leaders should keep their language clear and use this opportunity to educate the public about both civil and national security space.
When President Trump first publicly floated the idea of creating a Space Force in March 2018, the news media and late-night comedians couldn’t help but have some fun with it. Trump himself seemed to say that he wasn’t really serious when he first thought of the idea, but then decided it was a great idea. He said a Space Force was needed because of all the private money being invested in commercial space companies, and he specifically referenced the SpaceX Falcon Heavy inaugural launch that had taken place just a month earlier (which did not include a military payload of any kind). He then went on to say, “From the very beginning, many of our astronauts have been soldiers and airmen, Coast Guard men and Marines. And our service members will be vital to ensuring America continues to lead the way into the stars.” Besides taking a swipe at Navy astronauts by neglecting to mention sailors, statements like this seem to confuse human spaceflight (which has always been the domain of NASA) with the Space Force and national security space. Conflating the two is bad for national security and bad for NASA.