Updated: Nov 4, 2021
J.R. Cook '23, Marc Previlor '23, Avery Dollarhide '23, Connor Barberi '23
**This article does not represent the views of the United States Air Force Academy, Air Force, or Space Force.**
The United States is at a critical point: from aggressive foreign adversaries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, to a shifting global environment that threatens the longstanding freedoms and prosperity we have long enjoyed with our allies, the nature of the United States’ role in the world itself faces radical change. The character of modern warfare and the rapidly growing space domain are also facing unprecedented changes. Adversaries are beginning to test U.S. resolve in space and ultimately push against the interests of the free world. The Outer Space Treaty (OST) is the agreed upon regulations for space endeavors to prevent international conflicts in the space domain. However, this treaty was signed in 1966 and there have been significant advancements in space since then, such as the designation of Space as a warfighting domain. The OST is an active and living treaty, but the modernization and militarization of space must be taken into account. As nations continue venture further into space, the United States and our allies must be prepared to take actions necessary to protect and preserve the heart and spirit of the OST. Space is the last frontier and our adversaries’ only chance to overtake the U.S. is in this emerging domain. In order to protect the U.S. and its allies’ national and commercial interests, we must look to the stars and begin to utilize new space assets vital to the security and peace we have long endured. The United States must continue to lead from the front in space and subsequently hold the ability to set the terms for future space exploration and preserve freedom of action in space. An allied U.S. lunar base will serve to advance the U.S. national defense policy as the ultimate high ground and serve as a critical hub for further deep space exploration, strengthening ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capabilities, and enabling the advancement of scientific pursuits. A military outpost on the lunar surface will be an integral component in establishing U.S. leadership and superiority with its allies in space.
As the United States oversees the handover of space initiatives to private industries, China has already designed a space station to overtake the United States and its allies and is closely following space doctrine outlined in the Chinese White Papers in the early 2000s. China and other adversaries are mobilizing their national space programs and pursuing ambitious space strategies that include lunar missions, Mars missions, deep space exploration, commercialization, and ultimately a lunar base with a high potential for military applications. It is imperative for the United States and the U.S. Space Force to remain dominant in space in order to protect and promote free trade, scientific research, peaceful international relations, and generate new space policy. The United States cannot wait for China or other near competitors to take the lead in this 21st-century space race.