Count at least one big dreamer among the fans of President Donald Trump’s vision for a military branch with its eyes on the stars. Elon Musk, who knows a thing or two about ambitious plans, says dedicating a wing of America’s fighting forces to the final frontier is actually a "cool" idea.
Speaking with Recode for a broad-ranging interview, the reliably unpredictable maverick entrepreneur (and Simpsons guest star) said charting a martial course for the outer reaches is a forward-looking idea whose time has come.
Comparing the inevitability of a military branch like Trump's proposed Space Force to that of the Air Force during the early days of flight, Musk said the president’s idea might be getting its share of derision from skeptics — but not from him.
“Well, this may be a little controversial, but I actually like the idea,” Musk said. “I think it’s cool. You know, like, when the Air Force was formed, there was a lot of like pooh-poohing, and like, ‘Oh, how silly to have an Air Force!’ You know, because the aircraft in World War II were managed by the Army.”
But, he added, “it became pretty obvious that you really needed a specialized division to manage aircraft. And so the Air Force was created…people today may not realize back then it was wildly panned as a ridiculous thing to create the Air Force, but now everyone’s like, ‘Obviously, you should have an Air Force.’ And I think it’s gonna become obvious that we should have a Space Force, too.”
Musk himself has his eyes turned skyward, with his SpaceX aerospace company aiming to send people to Mars by 2024 (a goal he reaffirmed in the interview). Space Force, he said, could usher in a technological feedback loop for space exploration in much the same way that earthbound military research and development has long fueled innovations that have trickled down to the private sector.
“…I think also it could be pretty helpful for maybe expanding our civilization ... You know, expanding things beyond Earth,” he said. “I think we could just have a base on the moon, for example. A base on Mars. Be great to expand on the idea of a Space Force. Anyone who has an exploratory spirit, and I think that especially applies to a country like the United States, where you know it’s kind of the distillation of the spirit of human exploration. I think the idea of being out there among the stars and among the planets is very exciting.”
While Musk has taken plenty of his own criticism for sharing outsized dreams like colonizing Mars and building high-speed rail tunnels, at least he’s an optimist. We just want to know if he’ll be first in line at the recruiting office when Space Force finally lines up its first class of space cadets. After all, maybe taking the fight to some alien scum will finally let him put that flamethrower to some good use.