“At some point, yes, we will be putting humans into space. They may be operating command centers somewhere in the lunar environment or someplace else.”
“The lunar environment” is military-speak for the Moon, which makes sense since that quote came from Maj. Gen. John E. Shaw, head of the Space Force’s Space Operations Command and part of U.S. Space Command leadership, while answering a question this week at a conference sponsored by AFWERX, the “Air Force's team of innovators who encourage and facilitate connections across industry, academia, and the military to create transformative opportunities and foster a culture of innovation.” This seems contradictory to recent stories that Space Force troops had been deployed in Qatar, it formalized agreements with NASA, it recruited a space horse and Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson, who said in February: “That opportunity to be an astronaut inside the Space Force today is almost zero.”
Anticipating the same reaction you just had, Shaw clarified his position and agreement with Thompson:
“First, space isn’t really all that habitable for humans. We’ve learned that since our early space days. And the second is, we’re getting darned good at this robotics thing in space.”
Did Shaw just contradict himself … and the Space Force’s latest recruiting programs looking for people whose “purpose on this planet isn't on this planet"? Not really. He’s just saying that putting Space Force cadets in space is a long way off, while we already have sophisticated robots doing important and complex security functions in space.
“The best robots that humans have ever created are probably satellites. … They’re incredible machines, and we’re only getting better. With machine learning and artificial intelligence, we’re going to have an awful lot of automated and autonomous systems operating [on] Earth and lunar orbit and solar orbit in the days and years to come, doing national security space activity.”
Robots – both autonomous and human-controlled – along with drones, rovers, satellites and other sophisticated AI creatures doing the security work of Space Force cadets in space. This doesn’t sound like what President Trump had in mind when he announced the Space Force. The president would probably prefer Space Force cadets in a SpaceX capsule to the ISS before the election. He won’t be happy with Maj. Gen. Shaw’s answer to when this will happen:
“(It’s) anybody’s guess.”
If your autonomous vacuum cleaner seems unusually excited these days, it may have heard the Space Force is looking for a few good robots.