It's not clear how this will fit into existing exploration efforts.
Today, at a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House, President Trump announced that he was directing the Department of Defense to create a “Space Force” as a sixth branch of the military.
Initially scheduled for 11:30 a.m. EDT, the meeting started 45 minutes late and opened with remarks from President Trump. After first discussing employment numbers, immigration, and other varied topics, Trump announced that he was directing the Pentagon to create a sixth branch of the military, a “Space Force.”
Currently, many space launches in the United States are overseen in part by the Air Force Space Command. The military has been involved in American space ventures since the early days of the space race, helping develop many early rockets. The first astronauts were also pulled from military pilots, and many modern members of NASA still get their start as pilots and engineers in the military. Trump spoke earlier this year about the creation of a Space Force, without many details as to what that would look like.
The creation of a military branch dedicated to space is a delicate matter; in 1967, the United States was one of many countries to sign the Outer Space Treaty, intended to prevent conflict in the course of off-world exploration. But members of that treaty only agree not to station nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in space. In 2014 the U.S. elected not to sign a treaty explicitly prohibiting extraterrestrial weapons.
Last year, the Pentagon actively opposed a house bill to create a ‘Space Corps’, citing a risk of increased bureaucracy. The Pentagon pushed for more integrated services instead of a new, separate branch.
Trump said on Monday that the Space Force and Air Force would be 'separate but equal.' It remains unclear as to how the new military branch will fit into established space exploration efforts.
This is a breaking news story and may be updated.