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The U.S. Could Get a New Military Branch: The Space Corps

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A U.S. House of Representatives panel is proposing a whole new branch of the U.S. military. As part of a Defense Department authorization bill for 2018, the House Armed Services Committee voted to create a sixth military service, the U.S. Space Corps, according to Federal News Radio. The Space Corps would take over the space missions currently handled by the Air Force’s Space Command.

While NASA is tasked with the scientific exploration of space, the Air Force is in charge of developing and maintaining the military’s presence in space, including satellites, GPS technology, weapons, and aircraft (like the experimental spaceplane that recently landed in Florida after 700 days in orbit on a classified mission). It works with NASA regularly, too. Vandenberg Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base in California have both served as routine NASA launch sites, for instance.

The Space Corps is still just a proposal, and several House representatives told Federal News Radio that they were surprised and alarmed by it coming up for a vote, meaning that it’s not necessarily a shoo-in. The Air Force’s top leadership has spoken against the move, too.

However, proponents argue that the Air Force isn’t prepared to address space as an increasingly important element of warfare. “We need to be ready to confront this, and yes, buried deeply within the Air Force, you could do that, but it doesn’t get the priority it deserves, given how important it is and how it impacts everything that we do,” Congressman Adam Smith, the committee’s ranking Democratic member, was quoted by Federal News Radio as saying.

Just as the Marine Corps is under the auspices of the Navy, the Space Corps would be a distinct service within the Air Force. It would be overseen by the Secretary of the Air Force, although it would also have a four-star chief of staff, a position with a rank equal to that of the Air Force chief of staff, leading the service.

For the plan to move forward, the Department of Defense will have to prepare reports for Congress in 2018 detailing exactly how the new service would be set up.

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politics
The Secret Procedure for the Queen's Death
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Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images

The queen's private secretary will start an urgent phone tree. Parliament will call an emergency session. Commercial radio stations will watch special blue lights flash, then switch to pre-prepared playlists of somber music. As a new video from Half As Interesting relates, the British media and government have been preparing for decades for the death of Queen Elizabeth II—a procedure codenamed "London Bridge is Down."

There's plenty at stake when a British monarch dies. And as the Guardian explains, royal deaths haven't always gone smoothly. When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, the blue "obit lights" installed at commercial radio stations didn’t come on because someone failed to depress the button fully. That's why it's worth it to practice: As Half as Interesting notes, experts have already signed contracts agreeing to be interviewed upon the queen's death, and several stations have done run-throughs substituting "Mrs. Robinson" for the queen's name.

You can learn more about "London Bridge is Down" by watching the video below—or read the Guardian piece for even more detail, including the plans for her funeral and burial. ("There may be corgis," they note.)

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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