JFK niece: Trump’s Space Force threat­ens NASA

Iran Daily - - Science & Technology -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Space Force was at­tacked for threat­en­ing NASA and global cli­mate in­ter­ests on the 60th an­niver­sary of the space agency’s birth, by film di­rec­tor Rory Kennedy.

The ac­com­plished film di­rec­tor and niece of the late former US pres­i­dent, John F Kennedy, told ex­press.co.uk of her ‘dis­ap­point­ment’ in the cur­rent US pres­i­dency.

Kennedy, who has filmed a doc­u­men­tary cel­e­brat­ing 60 years of NASA’S ex­is­tence ‘Above & Be­yond: NASA’S Jour­ney to To­mor­row’, fears the White House’s mil­i­ta­riza­tion of space could starve the space agency of fund­ing, fo­cus and pub­lic in­ter­est.

The pro­posed Space Force branch of the US mil­i­tary was an­nounced by Trump dur­ing a meet­ing of the Na­tional Space Coun­cil on June 18, 2018.

If the pro­posal passes through, the Space Force will join ranks with the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Air Force and US Coast Guard.

An­nounc­ing his bold plans, Trump said, “It is not merely enough that we have Amer­i­can pres­ence in space. “We must have Amer­i­can dom­i­nance in space.” The film di­rec­tor ar­gued some of the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing the planet to­day — namely hu­man-led cli­mate change — are be­ing ig­nored by the US pres­i­dent and his cabinet.

She re­called her un­cle’s iconic Rice Sta­dium speech in Hous­ton from 1962, where Kennedy an­nounced his goal of land­ing on the Moon. Kennedy ar­gued, the US in­ter­ests in space at the time were mo­ti­vated by the spirit of dis­cov­ery, co­op­er­a­tion and look­ing for­ward to a brighter fu­ture.

As out­lined in her doc­u­men­tary, the ground­work laid down by Kennedy and NASA led to the dis­cov­ery of the dam­aged ozone layer, the 1987 Mon­treal Pro­to­col in re­sponse and the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS).

She said, “I think my un­cle made a num­ber of re­ally amaz­ing points in that speech, where he said, ‘We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not be­cause they are easy, but be­cause they are hard, be­cause the goal will serve to or­ga­nize and mea­sure the best of our en­er­gies and skills’.”

“I love that idea, which re­ally con­trasts to what we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing to­day, where a leader is re­ally tap­ping into the best in all of us and en­cour­ag­ing us to work to­gether towards a lofty aspiring goal.”

Kennedy, the youngest child of the late Bobby Kennedy, said from the mo­ment of NASA’S birth un­der Dwight Eisen­hower, the vi­sion was to have a ‘non-mil­i­tary en­tity’ which could ex­plore, share and im­part knowl­edge with the rest of the world.

But 60 years on, NASA’S in­ter­ests as the world’s lead­ing space agency are at risk of los­ing re­sources and in­ter­est in ex­change for mil­i­ta­riz­ing space.

This, in turn, could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on re­search into cli­mate change and the grow­ing num­ber of cli­mate-re­lated catas­tro­phes — from hur­ri­canes in the At­lantic to droughts and ty­phoons in the Pa­cific. Kennedy, who ‘grew up in the Apollo era’, said, “I think there is def­i­nitely a con­cern — there are only so many re­sources that we have.

“I think there is not re­ally a sense right now that there is a need for an emerg­ing pres­ence in space and I think we haven’t done such a good job on this planet hav­ing the mil­i­tary play such a sig­nif­i­cant role.

“Given the ur­gency and the sci­en­tific truth around cli­mate change and the num­ber of deaths last year in Puerto Rico — 3,000 peo­ple died — these things are fa­tal and they’re sci­en­tific and they are only go­ing to worse un­less we make a dra­matic move to re­di­rect at­ten­tion.

“I think that will only come through lead­er­ship and leg­isla­tive ac­tion, so one of the great­est dis­ap­point­ments of this pres­i­dency is that there is not a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the sci­en­tists and the data that that is com­ing from the sci­en­tists.

“There is no pol­icy that re­flects what we know to be fac­tual and true.”

But not ev­ery­one fears space is be­ing rapidly mil­i­ta­rized, at least not any quicker than it has been in the past.

A Cana­dian as­tro­naut, Chris Hadfield, who com­manded the ISS in March 2013, said there is no rapid drive towards mil­i­ta­riz­ing space.

The as­tro­naut told ex­press.co.uk at the IP Expo Europe on Oc­to­ber 3: “Words and ac­tions are two dif­fer­ent things. Space has been mil­i­ta­rized to some de­gree since the very begin­ning.

“When I flew on the Rus­sian Soyuz, it has a gun on­board, they’re space sta­tions in the 1970s had guns on board — prob­a­bly those guns are for when you come back to Earth and land where there are po­lar bears or griz­zly bears or some­thing.

“But ob­vi­ously peo­ple have tests an­ti­satel­lite weapons, are in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles goes into space and de­liver tremen­dous mil­i­tary de­struc­tion all around the world.

“There’s a lot of bom­bast of course with what is go­ing on with Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, but I’m look­ing for what is go­ing on be­hind it and I haven’t seen any sig­nif­i­cant struc­tural change in what’s go­ing on.”

The as­tro­naut added what is go­ing on right now is nei­ther wrong nor was it in any way un­pre­dictable con­sid­er­ing past his­tory.

Hadfield said there is no ‘black and white’ an­swer to the ques­tion that he knows of but as far as he can tell once un­manned pres­ence in space grows to sig­nif­i­cant lev­els, then pol­i­cy­mak­ers will have to think of a sig­nif­i­cant ‘step change’.

Kennedy’s NASA doc­u­men­tary, ti­tled ‘Above & Be­yond: NASA’S Jour­ney to To­mor­row’, airs to­day at 8:00 p.m. BST ex­clu­sively on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel.

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