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I'm Kara Swisher, and you're listening to Sway if you enlist in the American military today, you can be a sailor in the Navy, a soldier in the Army, an airman in the Air Force or.
You can be a guardian in the space force today. Space is essential not only to our way of life, it's absolutely critical to the modern way of work.
Space Force is the newest branch of the military charged with defending American interests in space. It's teeny, tiny, just two percent of the Pentagon's budget. But since Trump started talking it up back in 2018, you know, I was saying the other day, because we're doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said maybe we need a new force will go into space for the agency has been busy defending itself.
Who are we fighting? Satellites, a bunch of frozen monkeys. Elon Musk's convertible.
When Trump talks about space force, he makes it sound like we're going to be on a rocket riding to the moon like SpaceX for running a.
Last month, when a reporter asked Biden, press secretary Jen Psaki, about the future of space force, her answer wasn't encouraging.
Wow, Space Force. It's the plane of today. I am happy to check with our space force point of contact. I'm not sure that is. I will find out.
Well, I'll tell you who it is. US Space Force Chief of Space Operations John J. Raymond, a four star general and a 35 year Air Force veteran whose family has been in the military going back for generations. I asked the general to come on the show and tell me his plans for Space Force and how he deals with the haters. But first, the question of that awkward press conference.
All right, so what did you think of that moment, because it wasn't rolled out, it was rolled out in a more political way. First of all, let me just say she's a really tough job. I mean, as the as the press secretary, you know, you can ask any question about anything that's going on in the world or in our country when I prepare for just doing a podcast with you for, for example, today on a subject that I am very, very familiar with.
There's things that I have to phone a friend for. So I think I was very pleased that the next day the Biden administration came out and threw their support behind the Spaceways. I think it's really important for the average American to understand access to space and freedom to maneuver in space is a vital interest. Space underpins our national defense. It underpins our intelligence capabilities that underpins treaty verification capabilities. It underpins scientific exploration. The challenge that we have today is that that vital national interests cannot be taken for granted anymore.
There is a significant threat. Adversaries understand just how important it is, and they're developing capabilities that keep us from accessing.
Have you planned to meet President Biden yet? I have had the opportunity to meet President Biden and and vice president first came into the Pentagon, met with all the Joint Chiefs. I had an opportunity to talk about the strategic environment that we face today in space. And it was a really good conversation.
You're having to deal with everyone's fictionalise ideas about space, people floating around in space and going Pew, Pew, Pew.
And even Mark Hammel tweeted at the director of Guardians of the Galaxy that they should sue space for us. And his quote was, So they grabbed the Guardians from your movies. They use the force to more movies than they have the gall to just steal their logo from Star Trek. Let's file a three way joint lawsuit and really nail those last those bastards. He was kidding. So talk about exactly what Space Force does, right?
So first, I think it's very important to understand that the United States Space Force is a military service, just like the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines. We now have a space where our mission is to organize, train and equip, build satellites, train operators to operate the satellites, launch those satellites and provide those capabilities for our nation and for our joint and coalition partners. So we do everything from procuring satellites to launching those satellites, like the Global Positioning System satellite, which is probably the best well known satellite across the world.
We built those satellites. We operate those satellites. When they get on orbit, we protect and defend those satellites to make sure that they are always there. And we track thousands and thousands of objects in space, many satellites increasingly. Yes. And that those numbers are increasing. If you look at it historically, we've tracked about twenty two thousand objects here over the last couple of years. And of those twenty two thousand objects, only about fifteen hundred were satellites.
Everything else was a debris. Today, those numbers are are getting up close to thirty thousand. We operate missile warning radars around the globe to provide our nation the unblinking eye to be able to protect from missile launches from anywhere on the globe.
So what is the military aspect of it? Protecting satellites makes sense. Is there an element of people being in space like police? People have that in their brain?
I think I think that's a fair construct to have in your brain. But we're not just building a service for today. You know, we didn't build an Air Force back in nineteen forty seven for nineteen forty seven. We've got an Air Force that would continue today as the barriers to entry to space are reduced and costs are reduced. What used to be great power competition between the United States and the Soviet Union has now been diminished to where students and universities and people are launching satellites.
And so the strategic environment has completely changed.
Let me go through some myths. All right. Is Space Force sending armed military officers into outer space? No. All right. Is it meant to protect us from aliens? No.
OK, will it protect us from giant asteroids that can collide with Earth like in the movie Armageddon? We can help with that.
And in fact, we've signed an interview with NASA. We have some sensors that can help track. And so we are committed to working very closely with the science and exploration folks to add our capabilities to that.
Should someone join space. Worse, if they want to be an astronaut, they could. In fact, we have two astronauts today that are space force astronauts. In fact, Colonel Mike Hopkins, who's on the International Space Station right now, he's the commander of the recent space launch that set the first operational crew up to the space station. All the services, their Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, provide astronauts to NASA or provide officers that can get trained and will do the same thing from the spacewalks.
OK, working with NASA or training them yourself, working with NASA, not only do we provide personnel to become astronauts that are trained by NASA and that work at NASA and do that NASA mission, we also protect the International Space Station. There's a lot of debris orbiting there. We act as the space traffic control for the world. We will warn folks that are operating satellites if they're about potentially collide with another satellite. And we do that in partnership with NASA.
So one of the things that we're also working with NASA is thinking through norms of behavior. You know, today space is really the wild, wild West. And we both operate in that domain. They have a different mission set. Their exploration and science were a military service.
OK, what's the biggest misconception about space for us?
Well, I think you alluded to it up front. It's the zooming around the the outer space with lasers fighting aliens. It gets back to the the challenge of understanding something that you can't see. And historically, space has been very classified. We do our business kind of quietly. It's you know, when you walk in a room and you turn the lights on, the lights always come on. Space is always on. You don't have to think about it.
It's always there. We need to make sure that's the case into the future. And that's really what we're all about. All right.
Is space for us working on sending a man to the moon or colonizing Mars? That's not our mission, sir. We are not NASA. There's three segments of space. There's a civil space segment that's NASA. There's a commercial space segment. The most visible today is space X, but there's lots of different companies.
We could just call them the billionaires. And then and then there's the military, the national security space segment. There are completely separate missions. I want to ask you about the privatization of space. There's so many billionaires building rockets now. You've got rocket lab, Astro, Virgin orbit, SpaceX. Does the private participation SpaceX help or hinder U.S. space security because they are all in there? Jeff Bezos wants to do a space colony that floats in the air with a giant cylinder.
Elon, of course, famously wants to die on Mars, just not on landing, which was his phrase.
How do you see working with the private sector and does it help or hinder U.S. space security? It's a huge help. It's a huge help. Tell me why. Well, one, I would bet on US industry any day. If you look at how they are developing capabilities that they're developing kind of an assembly line approach.
Yeah, the reusable rockets are the reason autonomy. I'll give you an example of how this is already paying dividends. We rely on commercial launch vehicles to launch our satellites and we don't we don't build our own rockets anymore. And so SpaceX, their rocket, they have designed it to be autonomous. So typically we have ranges in Florida and we have a launch range out in California and we have radars and telemetry. This is an optical telescopes and we have what we call command destruct antennas that if if a rocket were to launch and it were to go astray, then we have trained operators collect all that data and then make a decision to push a button down below that rocket up for public safety.
Yeah, I've seen that movie. Go ahead. So Space X came and said we want to do this all autonomous. And they worked with us and we certified their ability to destroy their rocket autonomously. So now every time a SpaceX rocket launches, it takes off and it can sense itself of whether it's gone off the flight path. And if it does, it will blow itself up. So you you need their innovation. You we need their innovation and it and it has reduced costs.
It has allowed us to launch significantly more rockets. That's just on the launch side. You'll hear this term proliferated, Leo. That's smaller satellites in much greater numbers and low Earth orbit. We think there's great advantage there. Know all of our satellites today are really big satellites that are very expensive. They take years to build. And so what happens is if you have a if you have a satellite that's really national critical, that's really expensive, you put a lot of mission assurance on it to make sure it will survive, launch and work.
And that is a different business model than if you're popping them off an assembly line that says, you know, this one doesn't work tomorrow. It doesn't matter because another one's coming off. You know, the next day and so what we see is probably a hybrid architecture developing where there'll be a mixture, but we we really see significant advantage in innovation and lower costs in distributing our capabilities to be more defendable.
So let's last year, Elon Musk's company, SpaceX, launched two crewed space flights. He seems to be a space sports fan. I asked him about it. Have you spoken with Elon?
I speak with him quite frequently. In fact, when I was a young colonel back in the early 2000s, I was in an office in the secretary. Defense staff called the Office of Force Transformation, and it was really trying to demonstrate new business models. And so I was given a task of trying to build a satellite and launch it for about 10 million dollars and to do it in a year. And so when we got some spare parts and put it together and built a satellite, we needed a launch vehicle.
And SpaceX had just started their company. And we gave Ilana's contract for a launch of the satellite. And that was back in the early 2000s. No idea. Now, I also tell you, it's just not I've I've met several times with Jeff Bezos. I've met with Richard Branson. I deal very broadly with all of commercial industry.
What did you talk about with Jeff Bezos? Yeah. So the conversations I had with Mr. Bezos early on was, you know, their company had really just started. I visited Luritja. I've visited the companies several times since that time. So we talked about their vision and what they're going to do. They operate capability off of Cape Canaveral, down in Florida. And so I'm excited. I could not be more excited to have this commercial venture. In fact, when I was a young captain way long ago, I was the commercial space launch officer for Air Force Management.
And one of my jobs was to support and encourage commercial industry. And we would give leases or licences for real property to allow commercial industry to come in and and to allow them to compete. Back then, China was launching a lot of commercial satellite. Russia was launching a lot of commercial satellite. That's all out largely. I'll come back to the United States and providing a significant economic impact for our nation.
When I interviewed Elon, he told me mankind would evolve into a multi planet species of a space faring civilization. Have you actually been to outer space?
I have not. I have had my feet firmly planted on the ground. Do you have any plans to go? I do not.
I don't want to be a multi planet species in a space faring civilization.
I would be happy to do that. But I've got really important work to do on the ground to serve our country and protect our national interests. And that's really where I'm focused.
Do you want to go even like a vomit comet, that kind of thing? Have you done any of those things or not? I have not now. Wow. There obviously was a show called Space Force. Right. Which is you played by Steve Carell. What what did you think about that?
I watched I watched the entire series that I guess what I would say is they picked the wrong actor, OK? They needed a pick. Bruce Willis, have the right as well as a. Yeah. I don't I you can't see me on the podcast, but I'm bored. So I one of my daughters texted me and said, hey, you know, your spacewalk is because I mean, they're doing a show about you and Steve Croes is playing.
And I said at that time, I said, you know, the big joke was they picked the wrong guy. They need to have a bald guy. And then there was the big family texting back and forth on all the all the actors. My personal favorite was was Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis.
Well, he's been in space in Armageddon. Don't know if you know what he save the world.
That's right. Yeah, his. We'll be back in a minute, if you like this interview and want to hear others hit subscribe.
You'll be able to catch up on Hsueh episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, and you'll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with General John Jay Raymond after the break. Great journalism applies relentless curiosity in search of the truth, and with every story, there's a need for analysis, context and structure, all tools that help create positive change in the world. SACE shares the same value by turning data into answers using SAS analytics and A.I. organizations, drive progress, make better decisions and improve lives.
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If you find yourself bewildered by this moment where there's so much reason for despair and so much reason to hope all at the same time. Let me say I hear you. I'm Ezra Klein from New York Times, opinion host of the Ezra Klein Show. And for me, the best way to beat back that bewildered feeling is to talk it out with the people who have ideas and frameworks for making sense of it. From my days at The Washington Post to my time as editor in chief at Vox and now as an opinion columnist at The New York Times, I've tried to ask the questions that matter to the people at the heart of those matters, like how do we address climate change if the political system fails to act?
Has the logic of markets infiltrated too many aspects of our lives? What do psychedelics teach us about consciousness and what is sci fi understand about our present that we miss? This is the Ezra Klein show and there is going to be plenty to talk about. You can find new episodes every Tuesday and Friday wherever you get your podcasts. So Space Horse has gotten its share of mockery, the fact that its troops are called guardians hasn't helped.
It's just too close to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which, of course, I love. You can't help thinking of Star Wars.
I asked General Raymond for context. Let me talk a little bit about. Let me put some of that to bed. OK, so in 1982, therefore set up a command called Air Force Base Command. Yes. And in nineteen eighty three, there was a contest and the contest was to come up with the official motto of Air Force Base Camp. You know what that motto was? Guardians, Guardians of the High Frontier, Guardians of the High Frontier.
That's a better movie name. We've been Guardians of the High Frontier since nineteen eighty three. The magazine that that we published every month was a frontier. And so when we came up with this name, we crowdsource this. We had four hundred or so different names. What's another one? There's a troupers. Astro Sentinels. Yeah. We went out to linguists and said, hey, come up with it, make up a name and we focus grouped it.
And more importantly, we got the input from the folks that are in the service and said, hey, what do you want to be called? The leading choice was guardians, both inside the service and outside the service. There was a link to our history. I know that they're saying like that you're reclaiming it. I'm with you. I mean, I. I got the fact that there's a movie, you know, years later that's like the movie.
I have recently watched the movie.
It's funny there's a talking fox or whatever that is. But we have been the guardians of the high frontier since nineteen eighty three.
I'm going to give it to you. Thank you. All right.
Well, I want to talk about actual threats in space and not the aliens and Martians and things like that. Well, it's easy to picture the army defending us on land or the Navy defending us on sea or the Air Force in the air, obviously. How do you explain to people might be asking himself, what has Space Force done for me lately?
Yeah, first of all, let me say the what SpaceX done for you lately is it's fueled your way of life. Are you a coffee drinker? I am. Oh. When you got up this morning before you had your first cup of coffee, did you check your cell phone? Yes, indeed. That was enabled by space capability. If you did any kind of Internet banking that was enabled by space capabilities, if you went to the gas station and bought gas at the pump and didn't have to walk inside to pay it, that was enabled by SpaceX.
And if you got a weather report that was enabled by Space Station, it is it is fused into everything that we do. And it also fuels the way we conduct our missions in the joint and coalition military operations. Almost my whole career, largely since Desert Storm back in nineteen ninety one, has all been about integrating space capabilities into theater operations. So if you if you think back to Desert Storm, when the coalition forces did the left hook through the desert at night on a featureless terrain, well, how do you do that is a very fledgling GPS system that wasn't even fully capable.
When you look at Scud missiles that were launched and we took strategic missile warning satellites that were designed to detect ICBMs from then Soviet Union, and we innovatively came up with a way to use those to detect very small missiles, to provide warning for our forces and to countries in the in that region. And now you fast forward from there and from nineteen ninety one to where we are today. Everything that we do is a military. Everything that we do is enabled by space.
And I was stationed in Japan back in 2011 during what we called Operation Tomodachi. They had an earthquake and tsunami and a nuclear reactor disaster. And even in operations like that for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, we integrated space capabilities into that operation. It provides us great advantage.
So you've also called Space War warfighting domain space yourself. And you said you just said Wild West. But there are limits. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty basically says you can't put nukes in space. What do we know about our adversaries and their weapons in space? And do we have weapons in space?
Let me walk you through that and I'll use 2007 as kind of a demarcation point, if you will. But in 2007, China launched a missile from the ground and blew up one of their own satellites and blew that satellite into three thousand pieces of debris as a test, as a test. That debris is still largely on orbit today. And we track all of that debris and we provide warning to everybody in the world in a very transparent manner because we want to keep the domain safe for all.
So that was kind of a, if you will, maybe a little bit of a wake up call that, hey, that this domain is shifting from a very peaceful domain where all you really had to worry about was launching a satellite. It would survive launch. It would survive what we call infant mortality. It could get on to orbit and it would work. I will tell you, the threat that we're seeing today is very robust and it's everything from reversible jamming of communication satellites and GPS satellites, for example, to directed energy systems like the lasers that can blind or disrupt our capabilities.
Both China and Russia have multiple ground based laser systems of varying power levels.
This is to shoot assets in space, correct, from the ground to destroy or damage or disrupt our ability. They also I talked about the the capability that China demonstrated in 2007, Russia also has that capability. They have a missile called the new missile. It's the same type of missile that shoots from the ground. It's designed to kinetically destroy satellites in what we call low earth orbit, the orbit closest to the Earth. And it's where the International Space Station operates in that regime.
Both countries have capabilities on orbit that are concerning. And these are these threats are here today. This is we're not talking future.
So let me ask you, General John Heighten, the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs, complained about the overclassification of military space. How do you convince the public there's this threat in space? So Russia has lost a satellite. And I describe it as a nesting dot you're familiar with. Yes, inside of it all inside of it. Well, they launched a satellite and put it very close to one of our satellites in low earth orbit. And then that satellite opens up and releases another satellite.
And then that baby satellite, if you will, has the capability, because we saw him demonstrate this in another part of space. We saw that satellite launch a projectile. And we know that that satellite is designed to kinetically kill or destroy US satellites in low earth orbit. And so they launched that first satellite, put it up next to one of ours. They opened up and released the second satellite.
You're essentially just grabbing a gun pointed at our satellites, something.
That's exactly right. And then we came out and said, this is irresponsible behavior. And they moved further away and then released that projectile. Similarly, and something that we have not talked a lot about at all is that China has satellite that has a robotic arm. And think about a satellite that has a robotic arm, how it could in the future reach out and grab a satellite.
Yeah, that was the plot of a Bond movie. Just well, that's real today. And then there's cyber threats. Yes.
Let's talk about you have thirteen hundred cybersecurity professionals in space for us in the next few months. Right. Is that enough?
Adding civilians to it? We're up to about nineteen hundred, both active duty and civilians that are focused on understanding the cyber terrain to be able to protect and defend those capabilities. And when you're thinking about space, it's not just the satellite. You also have to be able to protect the ground station that sends commands to those satellites and then the link between the ground station and the satellite. So we have put on our operational crews. We have cyber professionals that are embedded with our space operations crews that understand that cyber training can help us protect and defend those capabilities.
Former President Trump wanted space for us to be separate but equal branch of the military. But the stark numbers the Navy's is fiscal 2021 budget was one hundred and sixty one billion, while the Marine Corp wanted forty six billion, the Air Force requested more than one hundred and fifty three billion. Meanwhile, Space War says the budget around 15 billion. That's two percent of the annual Pentagon budget. Elon Musk probably has that in his drawer somewhere. Should you have more?
I think every taxpayer dollar is precious and we have stood up the space force largely with the resources that we have. There's no new personnel here. This is transferring folks from the Air Force. This is largely dollars that work program for space in the Air Force. To transfer it over, we have to compete for dollars like everybody else, and we have competed pretty favorably. I don't need to have hundreds of billions of dollars. I need to do what we need to do to protect and defend these satellites.
I think we have great opportunities with partnering with commercial space. I think we have great opportunities with partnering with our allied partners. We had the launch to communication satellites and Norway was going to launch to satellites. So we went to Norway and said, hey, can we just put a couple of our the payloads to kind of the business end of the satellite. We just put them on yourself and we signed an agreement that saved us almost a billion dollars.
We just need to deal with Japan where we're doing the same thing. We're putting another payload on a Japanese satellite that will save dollars, give it us some more capability sooner. And I really believe that as we design this force structure, we are going to do it in a way that we can leverage a new business model. That's this commercial business model and we can leverage international partnerships.
Yeah, this sounds very star Trekkie. So spacewalks planned about 16000 people. Again, the Marine Corps is one hundred and eighty six thousand.
How many more people do you think you need? I mean, there's messaging and military marketing. You put out a 30 second ad. It shows space walks, gardian wearing a space helmet. How do you get people to want to join Space Wars?
I tell you, we had many more people volunteer to come in the service than we had slots for. I visited a few universities since the stand up and there is an increased interest in space and in STEM degrees and they're seeing more people enroll. I think that's going to be of great value. One of our opportunities is to develop a human capital strategy built for the twenty first century that leverages talent that might. Typically not have been interested in joining the military, I don't know how many people have come up to me and said, you know, my son or daughter wouldn't go in the military, but, boy, they'll join the space wars.
And I have to remind them, hey, we are we are we are an armed service, but there's an opportunity there to attract talent that might not have been inclined before.
It was interesting, you sounded for a second like an Internet person or a tech person, for example. I was a junior in college before I saw a computer with a mouse on it. So I have a digital dinosaur.
But you have to work now. You must be hanging out with tech people, hanging out with the tech folks. How do you envision a fully functioning, fully mature space force operation in, say, 50 years?
I would like to drive a discussion on norms of behavior. You talked a little bit about the Outer Space Treaty, that there really are no rules that sort of putting weapons of mass destruction in space. I really would like to see some rules of the road, and we're working that very closely with our partnerships. I would like to see the economic benefits of space continue to thrive. I would really like to see continued exploration with NASA and I would like to make sure that the Space Force is capable of protecting and defending those national interests as the domain continues to evolve.
So behind you is a photograph of Lloyd Austin. He's the new secretary of defense for the Biden administration. Do you feel now that the Bush administration is going to continue to push this forward for you?
That's what they've said. They came out and said that they fully support the space war. It's too critical to our nation. I think it's a national imperative.
I really appreciate it. I know I've give you a little jokes about space stuff, but you're going to have to take I really trust me. I you know, I think your patches are cool. I think your patches. I do. I do as well. You know, the problem is if I join space for years, I'd have to be called Lord Vader. But I don't think I get that title. Do I know I tell you, though, we'd love to have you.
You're welcome. Anytime. But I'm going to come in and I mean this. I would welcome the opportunity. And you have an open invitation. I would love the opportunity.
I am coming to get patches. If at the very least Elon will fly me over and his drone. I'd love to host it.
All right. Thank you, General John J. Raymond. I really appreciate it. He is the head of Space Force. Thank you very much.
Hsueh is a production of New York Times opinion, it's produced by Naimah Rasa, Hepple, Albany, Matt Kwong, Daphne Chen and MisShape Darba, edited by Nyima Roset and Paula Schoeman with original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Eric Gomes and fact checking by Kate Sinclair.
Special thanks to Shannon, Busta, Merial, Higa and Kathy too.
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