A former NASA astronaut and retired Air Force fighter pilot says the U.S. military should create a space force, an idea that recently gained traction because of President Donald Trump.
A space force would have to be distinct from the Air Force, retired Air Force Col. Terry Virts argued, because it requires two different skillsets to launch and pilot planes and spacecraft.
"Having spent nearly three decades as an Air Force pilot, with 17 of those years in Air Force Space Command, I can say unequivocally that air and space are completely unrelated domains, in the same way that land is a separate domain from the sea," Virts wrote in a recent government research report.
Virts, a former International Space Station commander, added that the new space force should be separate from sister service branches in order to streamline operations.
"Today there are space forces in the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as intelligence agencies. Combining many of them into a space force would reduce duplication," Virts wrote in the "Space Platforms and Hypersonic Technologies Taxonomy" report from government research firm Govini.
The move would knock down "bureaucratic barriers" and consolidate multiple chains of command, according to Virts.
He also makes a case for collaboration among the service branches, saying "the guiding principle should be if something needs to be launched to, intercepted or operated in, or returned from space, then the space force should be the lead."
A military presence in space is inevitable, according to Chris Taylor, CEO of government research firm Govini.
"At some point, we are going to have a group of people dedicated to space, it seems to me that this is a logical progression," Taylor told CNBC.