“People make fun of it, I among them. I like space exploration, I’m excited about us conquering space scientifically and through knowledge, but why do we need the Space Force,” Colbert asked.
“Just ’cause it came out of Trump’s mouth doesn’t require that it then be a crazy thing,” Tyson said.
“I can tell you that many people are thinking that ‘We didn’t have a Space Force before, now we’re gonna have a Space Force.’ We have a Space Force, it’s called the United States Space Command and it’s under the auspices of the Air Force. We already a presence in space: The Air Force launches satellites, the Air Force puts GPS satellites into orbit around Earth.”
Tyson said that the Space Force would just assume all the space activities that were under the Air Force jurisdiction since the Sixties, and added that he’s hopeful that the Space Force would take the lead on tasks like “asteroid defense” and cleaning up space debris.
The astrophysicist said, “All I’m saying is this is not a new thing because we’ve had space assets – military space assets – since the Sixties. What is a spy satellite? It’s a space asset in the service of the military.”
Colbert then challenged Tyson on the term “Space Force,” which is “innately embracing the idea of space war.” Tyson pointed out that in 1967 the United Nations – the U.S. included – signed a treaty for “peaceful use of outer space,” but there is a “gray area” that allows for nations for defend their space assets.
Despite its sci-fi-sounding moniker, Tyson said it’s impractical that Space Force combat would actually occur in space; the destruction of satellites or other objects would create fast-moving debris that would destroy other assets in orbit.
“It’s not realistic for what would happen in space,” Tyson said. “If you take out one satellite above a certain threshold, all satellites could go, and then war is done in space.”