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Trump signs executive order to establish proposed 'Space Force

Image source: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump announced on Monday that he wants the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to immediately begin creating a sixth branch of the military — an independent "Space Force."

During a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House, the president signed an executive order establish the new branch.

What did he say?

The president told the council: "When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.

"We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal...My administration is reclaiming America's heritage as the world's greatest spacefaring nation."

He added, "The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers."

The Commander in Chief also expressed his vision for reviving the US space program. As part of that effort, Trump pledged to launch new moon missions and to eventually send astronauts to Mars. He reiterated that he does not want "China and Russia and other countries leading us."

Where did this come from?

Director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Todd Harrison, took to Twitter on Monday to make several points about the Space Force initiative. In his first post, Harrison said of the president's announcement that this was "at least the third time he has said something like this publicly, so it's not completely out of the blue."

Indeed, President Trump mentioned that he was considering the idea of Space Force back in March, and then in May told an audience that he was "seriously thinking" of adding a sixth military branch.

Can he do that?

In 1967, the United States signed the Outer Space Treaty, along with China and Russia. The treaty places limits on certain activities like prohibiting celestial weapons testing. But professor and space policy expert John Logsdon of George Washington University says the treaty would not prohibit the creation of a proposed Space Force.

For now, questions exist as to whether the president has the full authority to create an additional military branch. Harrison also tweeted that "The president can't just create a new military service on his own. It requires congressional authorization."

Harrison pointed out that "Last year the House passed a bill that would have created a space corps," but that proposal died in the Senate.

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