[Forthcoming publication with the U.S. Army Mad Scientist Initiative]
Two American companies are leading the world and our species in a bold endeavor to settle in space. With the creation of a SPACESOF service component, US Space Force can help support and accelerate American space settlement initiatives and posture our species against extinction.
The velocity in which technology is advancing is at times difficult to comprehend and strategically hard to plan for. In fact, according to entrepreneur Peter Diamandis we will experience more technological progress this decade than the past 100 years. Space is no exception. Unlike the space race of last century which was between two nations, the United States and the Soviet Union, the current space race taking place is between two billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
Both share Stephen Hawking’s concern that “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious”, and both have made it their life’s priority to get humans into space. However, they differ in their approach.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the goal to make humans a multi-planetary species starting with an initial settlement on Mars by 2030 and a fully functional city by 2050. A few days after the successful SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sent Crew Dragon astronauts to orbit last week, Elon Musk wrote a letter to SpaceX employees to tell them that Starship, the rocket that will take humans to Mars, is now the company’s top priority.
While Jeff Bezos also wants to send humans to space, with his company Blue Origin. He doesn’t believe that planetary surface colonies are the best way for humans to expand into the solar system, because other planets are inherently inhospitable to human life. Instead he favors Gerard O’Neill’s idea for manufactured worlds inside massive rotating cylinders (called O’Neil colonies).
Unlike other plants, O’Neill colonies could have gravity, be close to Earth and have internet. The Moon would be used as a launch pad to create these colonies which is why Blue Origin is working on going to the Moon to build the foundational infrastructure. Bezos explains “My mission with Blue Origin is to help build that heavy lifting infrastructure that future generations will be able to stand on top of the same way I stood on top of the U.S. Postal Service and so on.”
While other countries do send astronauts to space and there are companies pursuing space tourism, there are only two companies in the world that are trying to create space colonies for humans to settle. These two companies have the most funding for an endeavor of this sort, and no nation state in the world has a federal initiative to create a space colony for its citizens. SpaceX and Blue Origin do, and both of these companies are American.
This is an incredible opportunity for the newly formed United States Space Force to open a dialogue with these two American companies to explore how USSF can assist and support their missions. Similarly, this is an important moment to discuss what special operations forces (SOF) can do for USSF and to support American interests in space beyond low earth orbit. One vision for a SOF Space Force Service component (SPACESOF) is to accelerate America’s space settling future.
In President Kennedy’s 1962 Moon Speech he spoke of his reasons to go to the moon and said “In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.”
Given what we know today about climate, asteroids and mass extinction events, it is not hard to borrow President Kennedy’s words in the 21st Century. Given two American companies have come this far with such bold ambition for our entire species, USSF and USSOCOM should jointly reach out to start a conversation with SpaceX and Blue Origin to see how they can help them make us the world’s first space-settling nation — for the good of all human kind!
Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos (@Lkcyber) is a Strategy and Innovation Advisor who loves to experiment and push the bounds of the possible. She helps her clients posture themselves to make the most of new technologies in the context of changing and emerging trends. She is currently conducting strategic research on technology and the future operating environment for the J5 at the U.S. Special Operations Command. She addressed the United Nations member states at the CCW GGE meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and keynotes at technology and national security conferences. She speaks and writes on disruptive technology convergence, innovation, tech ethics, and national security. In efforts to raise awareness on AI and ethics she makes reflectional art #ArtAboutAI, and made a game about emerging technology and ethics called Sapien2.0 .