By Mark Jacobsen, SAASS
/ Published February 17, 2021
In the debut issue of Space Force Journal, SAASS Professor Wendy Whitman-Cobb explores science fiction's influence on the U.S. Space Force. Professor Whitman-Cobb is this year's Course Director for SAASS 665 Space Power, and recently published a book on space privatization and its potential impact on conflict reduction.
As the United States Space Force has been debated and ultimately stood up, it has often been linked with various science fiction undertakings, most prominently, Star Trek. For the most part, the science fiction connections are not new in the history of space and can be beneficial. Yet being compared to science fiction also presents challenges for the Space Force. This article begins by analyzing both qualitative and quantitative evidence of a science fiction-Space Force link, and finds that this link has been prevalent over the past several years. The space domain is susceptible to science fiction-based influences because of the unknowns that remain with space-based operations. This is even more true with respect to the public’s view of the Space Force. Thus, the leaders of the Space Force are forced to address the cognitive dissonance between what the public expects and what the Space Force can actually achieve in the near- to mid-term. Space Force leaders should therefore focus on “de-science fictionalizing” to draw a distinction between imagined futures and strategic challenges of today.