After U.S. President Donald Trump called Monday for a new military branch referred to as the “space force,” the Holy See has encouraged a unified, peaceful approach to space exploration.
“The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory.
“The potential for development through space technology is immense and that the best way to make use of this potential is through international cooperation,” he said, in a June 21 statement to United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
Brother Guy is also the president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation and led the Holy See’s Delegation at UNISPACE+50, a conference which took place at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from June 18-21.
UNOOSA described the purpose of the symposium as to “consider the future course of global space cooperation for the benefit of humankind.”
The conference occurred shortly after President Trump directed Pentagon officials to move toward establishing a “space force” in support of national security. He said the branch presence would create jobs and that the regulation of space traffic management should not fall to other countries.
"I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” he announced at a June 18 meeting of the National Space Council.
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”
“There’s no place like space,” Trump added.
The sixth branch of military would have to be approved by U.S. Congress before it was established. President Trump also challenged rich Americans to pursue private, commercial space industry on U.S. soil.
Brother Consolmagno encouraged a different approach to space study and exploration. “The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” he said in remarks at the conference.
“It would be a most dangerous and alarming development, and one that could impact every single man and woman on Earth, if outer space were to become another theatre of armed conflict, just as the land, sea and air before it.”
“When the Earth is viewed from space, the atmosphere is the only border that matters, he said. “In seeing the Earth from space, we realize that our own borders are insignificant in comparison. The Earth’s atmosphere is a global environment that needs to be protected by a global vision of this limited, shared natural resource and must be utilized for the benefit of all humankind,” he added.
Consolmagno said the benefits of space exploration, and the data from space research, should be publicly available. Space travel, he continued, should be made more affordable, and viewed as a benefit to mankind and the planet.
“We need to reflect on how we can transform the space economy from one of very expensive space services and products available to a few, to one that harnesses the abundance of space-derived data and services for the good of all, creating opportunities to engage more actors and opening up new markets for space-derived data and services to meet the needs of the poor in a financially sustainable way.”
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