0700 GMT May 19, 2019
The accomplished film director and niece of the late former US president, John F Kennedy, told express.co.uk of her ‘disappointment’ in the current US presidency.
Kennedy, who has filmed a documentary celebrating 60 years of NASA’s existence ‘Above & Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow’, fears the White House’s militarization of space could starve the space agency of funding, focus and public interest.
The proposed Space Force branch of the US military was announced by Trump during a meeting of the National Space Council on June 18, 2018.
If the proposal passes through, the Space Force will join ranks with the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Air Force and US Coast Guard.
Announcing his bold plans, Trump said, “It is not merely enough that we have American presence in space.
“We must have American dominance in space."
The film director argued some of the biggest challenges facing the planet today — namely human-led climate change — are being ignored by the US president and his cabinet.
She recalled her uncle’s iconic Rice Stadium speech in Houston from 1962, where Kennedy announced his goal of landing on the Moon.
Kennedy argued, the US interests in space at the time were motivated by the spirit of discovery, cooperation and looking forward to a brighter future.
As outlined in her documentary, the groundwork laid down by Kennedy and NASA led to the discovery of the damaged ozone layer, the 1987 Montreal Protocol in response and the International Space Station (ISS).
She said, “I think my uncle made a number of really amazing points in that speech, where he said, ‘We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because the goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills’.”
“I love that idea, which really contrasts to what we’re experiencing today, where a leader is really tapping into the best in all of us and encouraging us to work together towards a lofty aspiring goal.”
Kennedy, the youngest child of the late Bobby Kennedy, said from the moment of NASA’s birth under Dwight Eisenhower, the vision was to have a ‘non-military entity’ which could explore, share and impart knowledge with the rest of the world.
But 60 years on, NASA’s interests as the world’s leading space agency are at risk of losing resources and interest in exchange for militarizing space.
This, in turn, could have a negative impact on research into climate change and the growing number of climate-related catastrophes — from hurricanes in the Atlantic to droughts and typhoons in the Pacific.
Kennedy, who ‘grew up in the Apollo era’, said, “I think there is definitely a concern — there are only so many resources that we have.
“I think there is not really a sense right now that there is a need for an emerging presence in space and I think we haven’t done such a good job on this planet having the military play such a significant role.
“Given the urgency and the scientific truth around climate change and the number of deaths last year in Puerto Rico — 3,000 people died — these things are fatal and they’re scientific and they are only going to worse unless we make a dramatic move to redirect attention.
“I think that will only come through leadership and legislative action, so one of the greatest disappointments of this presidency is that there is not a greater appreciation of the scientists and the data that that is coming from the scientists.
“There is no policy that reflects what we know to be factual and true.”
But not everyone fears space is being rapidly militarized, at least not any quicker than it has been in the past.
A Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, who commanded the ISS in March 2013, said there is no rapid drive towards militarizing space.
The astronaut told express.co.uk at the IP Expo Europe on October 3: “Words and actions are two different things. Space has been militarized to some degree since the very beginning.
“When I flew on the Russian Soyuz, it has a gun onboard, they’re space stations in the 1970s had guns on board — probably those guns are for when you come back to Earth and land where there are polar bears or grizzly bears or something.
“But obviously people have tests antisatellite weapons, are intercontinental ballistic missiles goes into space and deliver tremendous military destruction all around the world.
“There’s a lot of bombast of course with what is going on with American politics, but I’m looking for what is going on behind it and I haven’t seen any significant structural change in what’s going on.”
The astronaut added what is going on right now is neither wrong nor was it in any way unpredictable considering past history.
Hadfield said there is no ‘black and white’ answer to the question that he knows of but as far as he can tell once unmanned presence in space grows to significant levels, then policymakers will have to think of a significant ‘step change’.
Kennedy’s NASA documentary, titled ‘Above & Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow’, airs today at 8:00 p.m. BST exclusively on the Discovery Channel.