The following interview excerpt with Colonel Coyote Smith, USAF, is a free preview from the March issue of Space Quarterly magazine. This interview is only available in the U.S. edition of the magazine.
An Interview with Coyote Smith - By Emmet Cole
Colonel M.V. "Coyote" Smith, the United States Air Force's (USAF) "chief futurist" and Director of the USAF Center for Strategy and Technology (Project Blue Horizons) at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL recently sat down with Space Quarterly's Emmet Cole to talk about everything from the rise of the Chinese space program through the commercialization of space, the singularity and robotically-constructed lunar bases. Colonel Smith also serves as Professor of Strategic Space Studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies and as associate director of the Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies at the USAF Academy.
What is your role at The Center for Strategy and Technology?
We're focused on tracking technological trends and inferring where they are taking us, so that I can give military, national and international government decision makers a heads up about the direction that new technologies are taking us.
My mandate is to also expose moral considerations, so that national military and national and international decision makers can gain a deeper understanding of the possible implications of new technologies.
Basically, I'm the Air Force's chief futurist.
Sounds like a great job.
It certainly is! I've been in the military for more than 25 years and I love it more now than I ever did. The future is brighter and more optimistic than it ever has been.
What is the USAF's overall mission in space?
The mission is to secure and protect U.S. interests, in compliance with international law, orders of the President, the will of congress, and the thoughts of the administration.
What tensions exist between international law and U.S. interests in space?
Dating as far back as the Eisenhower Space Policy and then evolving out of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, the U.S. has been fairly consistent with its policy towards international rule of law in outer space - regardless of who the President has been.
There's been a lot of debate about U.S. space policy, but that's been driven by academics, politicians, and diplomats. As long as I've been in the armed forces, our guiding mantra has been ensuring that we abide by international law, by the orders of the President, and by the will of Congress.
We've always thought that all law-abiding peaceful actors should have free and unfettered access to, and freedom of action in space. We view our role as protecting and defending not only our rights, but their rights too.
We don't anticipate that there is going to be a dramatic policy change that will shift these marching orders anytime soon.
In your opinion, what are the biggest threats to the "unfettered access to space" you've mentioned?
The biggest threat is cost. Space ventures should generate a profit, but right now it's very difficult to make a business case for going to space for commercial purposes such as mining.
Going to space is also dangerous. The radiation threat alone is almost overwhelming. We need to have some technological breakthroughs to facilitate human spaceflight.
We also need to advance robotics. Robotics will open up the pathways to settlements on other planetary bodies, including the moon and Mars.
Can you share some of the technological targets the U.S. Air Force is hoping to reach by 2030?
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