As you read this, telescopes around the world continue to scan the skies hoping to find life on other planets in the universe. When I was a boy, we had yet to find any, and we all had this feeling Earth was skittering around through the dark vacuum all alone. It was spooky, being so all alone.
Since that time, scientists have discovered dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands, of planets in the universe that they feel could have life on them. They call them Goldilocks planets. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right for what we were hoping for.
Great joy has accompanied these findings, particularly the first. We now are sending out a continuous barrage of signals from a facility high in the mountains of Puerto Rico, asking anyone out there to please respond, please say hello, please tell us how things are.
So far, nobody’s responded.
It’s possible to think up hundreds of reasons why this is happening. I like to think it’s because we don’t have our act together.
Consider the following:
When we landed on the moon for the first time, we took a flagpole with a flag and planted it in the moon’s dirt, claiming the moon not for Earth, but for the United States of America. It was a silly contraption, that flag. Because there is no wind on the moon, it would, if made of cloth, just hang there, and nobody would see what was on it. So instead, we planted a stiff aluminum flag permanently sideways as a result of a pretend strong wind. Everyone would see where we came from. Some place with 13 stripes and 50 stars.
I remember thinking at the time, why not the flag of the United Nations? This other thing is going to scare everyone off, including aliens, if any.
Well, what’s done is done.
Since that time, and this is now almost 50 years ago, the Stars and Stripes is still up where we left it. No Soviets arrived to tear it down and put up a red flag. No Chinese arrived to tear it down and put up a Chinese flag. Yet.
About three weeks ago, our president, addressing the soldiers at the Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, suggested that we add a fourth service to our defense force. We have the Army, the Navy, the Air Force. He suggested we have a Space Force for when the time came to have “a war fighting campaign” up there, which is what he said.
As usual, he was wrong about that. The United States already has a space force. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower created two space programs, one civilian and one military. The civilian one is called NASA. The military one is being administered by the Air Force and mostly involves space planes being launched and manipulated around in the sky from bases on earth, mostly to keep track of reconnaissance and cyber security. The budget for the military one is about equal to the civilian NASA one.
In any case, last year’s Congress—a Trump Congress—laid the groundwork by passing a reorganization of the Air Force that includes a newer Space Force. There was much objection to this. It’s in place, even if Trump hadn’t remembered it when he spoke, but since last year, it has remained unfunded.
Well, the media made hay out of our warrior president’s comment, and apparently that has, since then, brought it to his further attention.
Last week, as one of his directives, he signed something called Space Policy Directive 3, which instructs federal agencies to manage all the 600,000 pieces of space junk that are circling the earth. This is leftover second-stage rockets and so forth not only from the United States but from China, Russia, Israel and all other countries that have carelessly abandoned such stuff up there. It’s provocative. Who do they think they are, managing all our space junk, one of the other perps might say.
Some of this junk is as heavy as eight tons. Other pieces are as small as paint chips. All of it, however, is a danger to United States space efforts—military or not—in that one might hurtle through one side of a space shipand out the other, as we have all seen in movies. The spaceship goes down. Or up. Can’t have that. It is a danger to America in that sense (which allows him to make a presidential order). I guess.
On the other hand, I suppose other nations might consider this an unexpected and welcome janitorial service. Until Trump sends out a bill for every country to pay their fair share. He could do that.
He could also keep what he cleans up. Discover the spying methods others use. Maybe learn some new secrets. In any case, the battlefield will have been cleared for action.
And we wonder why the aliens in outer space—where we assume one planet has one governing body—are so quiet?