Space in the 2016 Election

The 2016 presidential race is getting a little tight, so I thought that I should do what bloggers do best and apply my specific, niche knowledge to a totally unrelated topic. Clearly, space is not the #1 issue on the table when you're choosing between Clinton and Trump, but in this post I will tell you what space has to do with your decision.

You can read up on both candidate's publicly disclosed space policy in this Space News article, but it's not required reading for this post. This discussion is not going to be about how much money each candidate would give NASA, but more about the satellites flying overhead right now that provide irreplaceable services that we all can agree life would suck without. One small example: without GPS timing signals, LTE cell service would cease. If we want to protect and expand these services, we need a diplomat like Hillary, not a liability like Trump.

"Wait a second," you say, "Trump is the homeland defense candidate. If I want to defend our satellites, shouldn't I vote Trump?" Not at all. You cannot build a wall around our satellites in space, and the US currently does not have any proven capability to defend against anti-satellite weaponry. No one does. If you want to protect our satellites, you have to do it through diplomacy. Trump is anything but diplomatic, and would be a liability specifically because he would likely provoke an attack from a nation like China or North Korea. These nations are not dumb and are not going to go the way of Pearl Harbor. They are going to hit America in the weak spots of space and cyberspace, or more likely a cyber attack on satellites (which has already happened several times).

Trump can threaten with retaliation, place warships all along foreign coasts, embargo trade, and reach for the doomsday device, but due to cultural differences those actions will not stop a furtive attack in the night. Eastern nations won't respond to bullying the same way we do in the west. With state-run nationalistic media, a small North Korean victory is a big North Korean victory and any negative consequences can be erased. The media could make it so that Kim Jong Un flew to space himself and manually destroyed the GPS constellation with his bare hands. According to defense analyst Chris Stone, current military deterrence strategies won't defend our satellites.

Instead of someone with an outdated and ineffective foreign policy, we need someone to proactively defend our satellites through forming more international partnerships. One partnership that is saliently missing is any relationship at all with the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). NASA is currently prohibited from working with CNSA, and American companies are prohibited from buying launches on Chinese rockets. This is a totally different America's relationship with Europe, where we continue to fly joint missions to the International Space Station and American companies like DirectTV can buy European rockets like the Ariane 5. As we learned from the Apollo-Soyuz project and nuclear disarmament inspections in the cold war, collaboration and transparency go a long way towards lowering tensions.

China is as close as it has ever been to being America's equal in space. They have two astronauts in space on their own space station, Tiangong-2, and just this morning they had the first successful launch of the Long March 5 rocket, which has about the same capability as the United States largest heavy lift vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy.

There are some that say that a conflict in space is inevitable. Perhaps the best we can do is to push it off four years at a time. That is why I urge you to vote for Hillary Clinton, because a wall cannot protect our most vulnerable and valuable assets, but diplomacy might.

© Peter Brandt 2019 | all images in public domain unless otherwise stated