The December 2019 formation of the Space Force was met with a variety of responses. Most of them were negative. However, the new military branch is responsible for exploring space, and they would defend America’s assets in space if they were attacked. While some critics said the U.S. was trying to be a military force where there didn’t need to be one, space has never really been a neutral zone.
Secret Space Force
The Space Race was the result of the competition between the American and Soviet space programs. The competition between the two countries was very intense. Of course, the United States won, and in 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.
But there were many military advances during the time. Because the Space Race was so heated and happened during the Cold War, the U.S. took steps to defend itself.
In the 1970s, the Defense Department created its own “Space Force.”The California-based operation was shrouded in secrecy. Plans for the spaceport included launches into space using 32 spaceflight engineers.
The military trained these astronauts and planned to fly most of the missions to space. There were 134 officers and civilians assigned to the program, with three facilities total. There was the California campus, mission control in Colorado, and a facility in Los Angeles.
When the program began, many space engineers would hop onto NASA’s shuttles to cross-train and promote cooperation between the two.
Best Laid Plans
The Department of Defense was going to launch from California into a polar orbit, which lent itself to secretive missions more than the Florida launches would. In total, the Pentagon hopped for 12-14 launches.
However, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just after launching in 1986. The seven crew members all perished. The explosion hindered many of NASA’s plans but halted the Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program.
The Pentagon realized that the system was not perfect. When missions go awry, the whole world sees it. The program shifted its focus to unmanned rockets launched into space to carry satellites. Anything bigger was farmed out to NASA.
Maj. Frank M. De Armand, one of the Spaceflight Engineers, said, “It’s disappointing. We all had the excitement and expectation of flying on the shuttle. But I’m not bitter. It was the right decision.”