Will this country's "guardians" find themselves at home in Colorado Springs?
On December 18, just before Vice President Mike Pence announced that members of the new Space Force will be known as "guardians," Governor Jared Polis and more than 600 state, federal, local, county and municipal officials, as well as businesspeople, philanthropists, civic leaders, military officials and entrepreneurs from across Colorado, sent an open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to locate the U.S. Space Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. “Colorado is the epicenter of national security space and the only permanent home for U.S. Space Command. We are the past, present, and future of the mission,” they wrote.
This fall, the Air Force announced that it had selected six finalists, including Peterson, in its search for the ultimate home of U.S. Space Command, which will oversee the Space Force. It's in competition with bases located in New Mexico, Nebraska, Florida, Texas and Alabama. Whichever state wins will receive a massive, long-term injection into its economy through both projects and jobs. The Air Force is set to make a final decision in January.
In addition to that letter from Colorado, there are plenty of reasons why Colorado is the clear choice for U.S. Space Command headquarters. Here are just five:
It's already here
Since fall 2019, the temporary headquarters of U.S. Space Command, which coordinates operations that focus on space among America's various military branches, has been located at Peterson Air Force Base. The current commander of Space Command has already started setting down roots in the Colorado Springs area.
In its application to the Air Force, Colorado Springs stressed that the city had laid the groundwork for many military bases, and a permanent Space Command could take advantage of that, saving both money and time for the government.
Cold War history
The original Space Command was started during the Cold War in 1985, when it was headquartered at Peterson; it was shut down in 2002, only to be reactivated by President Donald Trump. While the U.S. may not be involved in another cold war, the idea of a revived Space Command sure makes it feel that way. And whether it's the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) or a missile factory, Colorado's military and defense industry installations have very strong Cold War ties.
The state was an ideal location for these types of facilities during those tense times with the Soviets: Colorado was far from the coasts, and thus farther away from a potential missile or bomber attack — and the state's central location allowed for communication with satellites over both the Atlantic and Europe and the Pacific and Asia. Location, location, location.
Conspiracy theory infrastructure
Military installations that involve space naturally give rise to wild ideas about alien experiments and crazy government plots. From the tunnels under Denver International Airport to the UFO Watchtower in the San Luis Valley, Colorado already has the infrastructure in place for the inevitable conspiracy theories about Space Command. If the headquarters lands here, the commander should set as a top priority figuring out what the hell was going on with those drones that were flying over the eastern part of the state a year ago. And then there are those cattle mutilations...
In late October, Colorado aerospace industry stakeholders announced the "Aerospace Alley" initiative, created "in an effort to celebrate the aerospace and aviation innovation underway across the State of Colorado."
While the Aerospace Alley name is clearly a rip-off of Silicon Valley, the attempt to brand the Front Range's space industry underscores the fact that Colorado is one of the country's top states for space assets. In fact, Colorado has the largest aerospace industry per capita out of all the states, and even without taking population size into account, it comes in second overall to California. Such a robust aerospace industry should prove fertile ground for Space Command to establish local partnerships.
No less an out-of-this-world figure than Santa has already put his seal of approval on Colorado Springs's role in space activities. Every Christmas Eve for the past 65 years, NORAD has hosted an official Santa tracker, using military sensors and technology to follow the ultimate globetrotter on his journey around the world.
The NORAD Tracks Santa website went live this year on December 1. C'mon, Santa: For this service alone, Colorado deserves the gift of U.S. Space Command headquarters.
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