One of the little known functions of the DoD (Department of Defense) is their observation of objects in orbit around earth. The U.S. DoD monitors every object floating in orbit above 2 inches in size. The reason for this extreme attention is quite simple… As chronicled in National Geographic magazine (January 2007), even a speck of paint can pit the windshield on the space shuttle when it’s traveling at 17,500 mph.
Another value of this military service was made apparent in February of 2008, when the US Navy shot down a bus-sized “chunk of metal” that could have leaked highly hazardous hydrazine fuel on re-entry. With the increasing number of satellites of civilian, scientific, military, and foreign manufacture in orbit (over 13,000 man-made objects), it will become increasingly vital that someone possess the technical ability to avert disastrous re-entries and help traffic safely navigate our backyard.
So next time someone suggests military spending is evil, and the armed forces should “have to hold a bake sale” to fund their projects, point out that military spending is responsible for safe space travel, satellite communication (and therefore our entire digital and cell phone society), several types of science (from astronomy to climatology and oceanography), and safety from space debris.