Earth’s Moon and cis-lunar space are new destinations for numbers of nations. To what extent is that presence demand or promote a military presence?
Image credit: Inside Outer Space

There is increasing interest in defining the military utility of cislunar space.

But just how valuable is that “open space” to armed forces of various nations? What is potentially promising, after so many decades of going to the Moon robotically and with humans, is the prospect of an economic kick-back.

But what are the implications for defending economically valuable extraterrestrial turf?

Framework for In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) of lunar water and asteroids.
Credit: Aiden O’Leary/Jason Aspiotis/Booz Allen Hamilton

Debatable topic

The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy has a series for sponsoring debates on national security space topics.

The first of the series features two essays written by experts external to The Aerospace Corporation under the title: High Ground or High Fantasy: Defense Utility of Cislunar Space.

The essays are authored by Namrata Goswami, a space policy expert at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and Bleddyn Bowen, an associate professor of international relations at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is moving forward on the Novel Orbital and Moon Manufacturing, Materials and Mass-efficient Design (NOM4D) program. (Image credit: DARPA)

Shades of gray

“This paper presents two perspectives, but there is a spectrum of views on the military utility of cislunar space,” comments Robert S. Wilson, a systems director at The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy.

“Our goal has not been to capture all positions about this debate but to showcase opposing arguments that can help policymakers and non-specialists understand where their own views fit on this spectrum,” Wilson comments.

While there are those that see this issue as black and white, Wilson adds that others will see it in shades of gray “and those different shades could mean different levels of defense investment in cislunar space as well as different roles and operations for the Space Force.”

President Donald Trump signs S.1790, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 on, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews. The act directed the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.
Credit: Airman 1st Class Spencer Slocum, 11th Wing Public Affairs


Rapid-fire rebuttal

The debate about the military importance of the Moon and cislunar space can be difficult to follow, suggests Wilson, and the Bowen and Goswami essays “clarify the issues at the heart of it.”

After having written their essay, the external authors had the opportunity to review the opposing essay and offer a rebuttal.

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