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Science fiction to science fact: Japan plans to establish a space military

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Aki Hoshide
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Aki Hoshide
Photo by NASA/Getty Images

The real “Star Wars” is getting closer to reality yet! It was reported Monday that Japan is planning to establish a space military by the year 2019. But it won’t initially be for purposes of battle unless you count the war on pollution. The new branch of military, which, according to AFP, is planned to develop from Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force, will be assigned to patrol for space debris in Earth’s orbit. The debris is caused by spacecraft of past missions both manned and unmanned. Space debris is a collisional danger to spacecraft in operation, including the International Space Station, a "Live Science" report says. The plan is supposed to strengthen ties between Japan and the U.S. in space which has been referred to as the “fourth battlefield”, as reported by AFP. As small as the mission may seem for what will likely be the world’s first space military, it would still be one more step from science fiction to science fact.

So far science fiction has been generally correct in its anticipation of space travel, robots in space and a permanent space station in orbit. Now sci fi’s prophesying of a space military is just beginning to fulfill. What have the greatest of these prophesies been? Cinema and television’s most popular movies and shows going as far back as the 1930s.

Starting in the 1930s, movie serials were very famous for their weekly space operas shown in movie theaters before the main feature. The most popular of these have been “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon”, both of which involved military battles in space.

The 1950s saw a number of sci fi movies and a few TV series involving space military. The most famous TV series of this type was probably “Captain Video and His Video Rangers”. Starting in 1949 and ending in 1955, it is said to be the first television science fiction series.

The mid 1960s saw the dawn of a television series involving a naval-like expedition in space: “Star Trek”. “Star Trek” would grow into a full franchise with its first big screen movie in 1979, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, and its first of four spinoffs starting with “Star Trek the Next Generation” in 1989.

About the same time “Star Trek” made its debut, in Japan another show that centered around a galactic military began: “Ultra-Man”. This show about an alien super hero of the same name, starred characters of a military organization called the Science Patrol which was dedicated to protecting the Earth from alien and mutated monsters. Like “Star Trek” the show spawned several spinoffs.

In 1977 the “Star Wars” franchise began with its first movie which was so well liked for its space battles. The craze inspired the “Battlestar Galactica” TV series in the late ‘70s which, although ended in the early ‘80s, SyFy Channel reincarnated it into its own version in 2004.

After the “Star Wars” knock off craze ended by the mid ‘80s, the sequel to 1979’s “Alien”, “Aliens”, premiered in 1986. It involved space marines investigating an agricultural colony planet infested with the monsters. This was unlike the first movie that’s characters were of a commercial cargo crew. (However, this isn’t to say there won’t be any commercial space flight coming soon!)

The 1990s saw space military in two TV shows that were set on space stations: “Babylon 5” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. In 1997 the TV series “Stargate SG-1” debuted, picking up from where “Stargate” the movie left off three years before. What was different about the space military in both movie and series was that its main means of space travel was via an intergalactic portal as opposed to a space vessel. We’re probably a much longer ways from that kind of space travel than we are from a space military!

The newest science fiction movie involving soldiers in space is 2013’s “Ender’s Game”. This movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel of the same name wasn’t received by audiences as well as anticipated. However, the film still raises questions about a military in space especially when it comes to recruiting children. Let’s hope galactic armed forces won’t take things that far in real life!

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