Is Star Wars about to go from fiction to reality?
Probably not, but after two developments in Washington this month we may be closer to interstellar warfare than ever before.
The first thing comes from President Trump, who once again this week spoke about his support of adding a new branch to the military called the "Space Force."
"We're actually thinking of a sixth [military branch], and that would be the Space Force," Trump told the Army Black Knights college football team, which was at the White House to receive the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
"Does that make sense?" he asked. "The Space Force, General. You probably haven't even heard that. I’m just telling you now. This is perhaps — because we're getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force."
This wasn't Trump's first time talking about the Space Force. In March, he said "Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea. We may even have a space force."
It's unclear if Trump envisions troops fighting other humans in space or if this is more about battling intelligent alien life. But there might be a clue buried in a new budget bill proposed by House Republicans. The Atlantic explains:
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives recently proposed legislation for NASA’s future that includes some intriguing language.
The space agency, the bill recommends, should spend $10 million on the “search for technosignatures, such as radio transmissions” per year, for the next two fiscal years.
If the bill were to make it through the House and Senate and get signed into law by Trump, it would mark the first time since 1992 that the federal government has funded the search for extraterrestrial life.
That would be a boon to the search for extraterrestrial life, or SETI. Not just because of the money, but because of the official acknowledgment of the importance of the search. Of course, the money is good too.
“Ten million at once for one year won’t do much,” SETI researcher Jill Tarter told The Atlantic. “But $10 million a year, as an ongoing funding stream, could do a great deal. It could allow people to build special-purpose instrumentation, and then use it on the sky for a long time.”
And if these instruments ever work, the Space Force would be ready to immediately wipe whatever they find out of existence.