Brace for real space wars, Aussie astronaut warns
Space warfare will be a reality, astronaut Andy Thomas says, and Australia needs to be ready for it.
While President Donald Trump's US Space Force has been ridiculed for its cartoonish imagery, Dr Thomas says there is a very real problem and our forces must be prepared to defend space assets.
The Pentagon released the logos for the Space Force this week, and they bear a striking similarity to the Star Trek insignias. Space Force uniforms were also revealed, and then scoffed at for their very Earth-coloured camouflage.
Meanwhile, there have been calls for Australia to intensify its military space capabilities. The air force has already signalled it will step up its space operations, and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute is pushing for a "space command" within the Australian Defence Force.
Dr Thomas told The Advertiser that it was "totally unrealistic" to think space will not be militarised.
"It's inevitable and unavoidable that it will be militarised given all the assets we have that we are so dependent on," he said.
"The idea of a Space Force, which is derided a bit by late night comedians, does have some merit.
"Whether Australia has another branch (of the defence forces) as a space force could be debated … I suspect it's probably not necessary, it can probably be addressed by existing armed forces but the reality is you need to have a military approach to space-borne assets, as you would any other national infrastructure interests."
Humanity, and particularly the armed forces, depends on space for navigation and communications. If an enemy knocked out satellites controlling those, it could send the Earth back to less-advanced times.
The Royal Australian Navy is already training some sailors in old-fashioned navigation, including tools such as sextants in case that happens.
And academics from the University of Adelaide are leading a global effort to recognise and regulate military operations, through the Woomera Manual on the International Law of Military Space Operations.
Dr Thomas said space law was important, and pointed out that there is not even universal agreement on where space begins.
Traditionally space is thought to start at the Von Kármán line, 100km up. However, that idea is contested by many, including Dr Thomas.
The US Space Force was officially created at the end of last year as part of a $2 trillion defence budget.