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Neil deGrasse Tyson: We Need a Space Force to Protect the Earth From Asteroids

The famed astrophysicist thinks a lot of people are only against the Space Force because it was Trump's idea.

PictureGroup/Sipa USA/NewscomPictureGroup/Sipa USA/NewscomFamed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't think President Donald Trump's proposed Space Force is such a bad idea.

Tyson tells TMZ that some people are only against the Space Force because it was Trump's idea, but "just because it came from Trump, doesn't mean it's crazy." He says creating a separate Space Force would be similar to the Air Force splitting off from the Army and becoming its own branch in the 1940s. "Today, you're not questioning, 'why is there an Air Force,'" he argues.

So what does Tyson think the Space Force would be good for? Asteroid strikes, for one thing. "What happens when the next asteroid comes and it's going to take us out? I'm going to want a Space Force to bat the thing out of harm's way," he says.

Such strikes are a genuine threat, albeit a very unlikely one. And the Observer's Neel Patel makes a decent case that the military would be more suited to plan and carry out the response to an asteroid than a civilian organization like NASA, particularly if the U.S. decided to fire a nuclear missile at the asteroid in the hopes of throwing it off course. The Space Force has also received the support of many officials, including Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. But it's not a good idea.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited a 2016 study from the Government Accountability Office, there are currently "60 distinct entities that deal with assets in space." In fact, as I noted earlier this month, the U.S. already has a kind of Space Force: the Air Force Space Command, which employs more than 36,000 people. Is there really a need to make the Space Command larger, or to add to the alphabet soup of space agencies?

There's another problem. The U.N. Outer Space Treaty puts some limits on the militarization of space: It bans the use of weapons of mass destruction outside the Earth's atmosphere, and it prohibits the installation of military bases on asteroids or the moon. But as the University of Kent's Gbenga Oduntan writes, the treaty does not preclude member countries from deploying other kinds of weapons in space. If the Space Force triggers an extraterrestrial arms race, we could see "a total disruption of the agreed law that outer space is the common heritage of all humankind."

TMZ, meanwhile, asked Tyson if he would be willing to serve as an adviser on the Space Force. "When the government calls, we all have a duty, if you have a particular expertise that can serve the nation," he responded. "I think you need to serve."

Photo Credit: PictureGroup/Sipa USA/Newscom

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I really hate him for his movie analysis where he points out inaccuracy in films. I can't imagine the jerk-off who is excited about that, either him or the people who consume it.

  • John||

    And it is always more or less the same things. Yes, I get it, you can't fly a spaceship like an airplane. You can't travel faster than the speed of light and it takes enormous amounts of energy and fuel to create it to do so. You don't hear sounds or feel shock waves in space.

    You don't exactly have to be Richard Feynman to understand that science fiction and fantasy is fiction and fantasy.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I can't imagine the jerk-off who is excited about that, either him or the people who consume it.

    The same jerk offs who "fucking live science." Seriously, half the content on the "I Fucking Love Science" facebook page is just there to fellate Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

  • Bubba Jones||

    What has Tyson done that Carl Sagan didn't do decades ago?

  • Rhywun||

    And with ten times more class.

  • John||

    And Sagan was a hell of a lot more accomplished in the field than Tyson as I remember.

  • Rhywun||

    I can't speak to that. He was a professor at Cornell forever, I remember.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Knock outs, ear bites, prison, pigeon raising, pet tigers, face tats, ...I can keep going.

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    Aw, pigeons are so cute!

  • perlchpr||

    Melanate his skin?

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Partaken in an esoteric sex cult?

  • CE||

    He was a better wrestler.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I point out blatant inaccuracies in military films.

    They're films but they advertise the films as historically accurate and then they aren't.

    Just hire a military historian and military arms expert to make sure the military flick is as realistic as possible. Its much more enjoyable for people who appreciate military stuff.

  • John||

    But those films are claiming to be accurate. Science fiction movies are not. That is a big difference.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    True. Except the science fiction flicks that tease sprinkles of science and even that science is inaccurate.

    Military flicks aside, I defer to inaccuracy on science-fiction being fine. Its why I love Star Wars.

  • CE||

    Star Wars is historical fiction. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," remember?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Maybe humans got dropped off on Earth by our long-lost ancestors after the Death Star was blown up.

  • Careless||

    Sometimes they kind of are. Babylon 5 made a deal about trying to make human spacecraft somewhat realistic. While their fighters were sort of x-wing shaped, they used the engines on the corners to turn, and didn't bank like they were flying in atmosphere. They tried to be realistic about that

    And then season four happened

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    What happened in season 4 that angered you so?

  • Careless||

    What I described. the ships started banking like they were in atmosphere.

    And "angered"?

  • Bubba Jones||

    One thing I liked about Galactica was their portrayal of space flight. (aside from "jumps"). No swooping. Just spinning and thrusting.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Just hire a military historian and military arms expert to make sure the military flick is as realistic as possible."'

    Then the viewers will complain that you see the boom, before you hear the boom. Why is the audio out of sync?

  • CE||

    That's why the Indians called the US Army's howitzers "the guns that fire twice".

  • Weygand||

    I disagree. The war is often the background to the stories and there is going to be some "sexing up" of the situation or battle surrounding the story. Pointing out the inaccuracy is cheap sport and, really, pedantic.

    Furthermore, pleasing the military history is but a small niche of the market; and by small niche I mean infinitesimal. So why kill the story of the fictional movie to cater to .003% of ticket buyers to ensure that it passes their impossible scrutiny anyway?

    And I say that as the owner of a huge 1/285th scale WW2 model collections on the west coast and published author of two books about WW2; I'm in the niche with you.

  • Juice||

    That was me at about 13 or 14. Always pointing out the unrealistic elements Sci-fi movies. I grew out of it. I guess he didn't.

  • John||

    The problem is that space as we understand it is a pretty boring place. You can't hear anything. You are weightless. The distances involved are enormous. The speeds required to go anywhere are either incredibly difficult or physically impossible to obtain and even if you could obtain them it would take years to get to them without the acceleration crushing you.

    A scientifically accurate space movie doesn't leave much room for drama or action.

  • Juice||

    Now I see why you hated 2001.

  • John||

    I loved that movie. But it is a bit slow in parts.

  • Bubba Jones||

    It was cool for the era. You could entertain audiences with long scenes of zero g.

  • Brian||

    It's totally realistic when you fly through Jupiter and trip your balls off for years as you become star child.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Have you been to Jupiter?

  • Brian||

    I'm from one of the moons.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    speeds required to go anywhere are either incredibly difficult or physically impossible to obtain and even if you could obtain them it would take years to get to them without the acceleration crushing you.

    -1 infinite improbability drive

  • perlchpr||

    I think you're overstating the problem.

    I give you The 100 as an example.

    The premise, if you are not familiar with it, is that it is ~150 years in the future, there has been a massive nuclear exchange on Earth, and the only known survivors (at the beginning of the show) are a group of people who have survived on a giant space station.

    They live under very tight rules, and nearly every offense is punishable by death.

    They state, over and over and over again, how tight they are on all supplies, air, water, food.

    And their execution procedure involves popping people out the airlock, with the airlock's volume full of air, and all of their clothing, thereby wasting all of those resources.

    There's nothing inherent to the environment of space that forced the writers of the show to make such a stupid decision like that. If anything, if their goal was to demonstrate how harsh these people's lives are, showing them recycling their dead for food would have accomplished that much better, I think.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    And they're all SJW's too! It's amazing that it's still like that despite being so far in the future

    But the blonde Aussie lead has amazing tits

  • CE||

    The Expanse had drama and action.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    That was me at about 13 or 14. Always pointing out the unrealistic elements Sci-fi movies

    I think a lot of people go through that phase, especially if you're interested in science and/ or engineering and start to learn about how stuff really works. You come to quickly realize that 98% (and I'm probably low balling it here) of crap that you see in movies is bullshit, especially when it comes to anything related to space.

  • John||

    98% of everything you see in movies is crap. Talk to a firefighter about movies that involve firefighting and they will tell you 98% of it is crap. Talk to a lawyer about court scenes in movies and they will tell you the same thing and so will anyone else with any knowledge of a field portrayed in a movie.

  • Bubba Jones||

    The more you know about a topic, the more you realize everyone around you doesn't actually know shit about it. TV, film, literature is not immune.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Don't get me started on Goonies when they are banging on the the plumbing pipes underground.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Talk to a firefighter about movies that involve firefighting and they will tell you 98% of it is crap.

    Surely you're not implying that Backdraft was bullshit.

  • CE||

    I like in the superhero movies and TV shows where one engineering whiz guy solves a problem in an afternoon that would take a team of a hundred engineers at least a year.

  • Cy||

    "Unstoppable" as someone in the industry, is a comedy film, not action.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I like the traveling carnival show he does where he misquotes politicians and then people rush to his defense and say it's ok because it makes a larger point.

  • Longtobefree||

    So give Neil deGrasse Tyson the bat and send him into space.
    Anyway, when we find out that an asteroid is actually going to hit the earth, the EPA will say it might have navigable waters, and deny a permit to change the trajectory in any way.

  • Cathy L||

    Why would we want to protect earth from asteroids? This is deGrasse Tyson's stupidest public comment yet.

  • John||

    Are you tolling Cathy? Being sarcastic? My sarc meter is terrible. So, please tell me you are being sarcastic here.

  • Cathy L||

    Only slightly.

  • John||

    It really is an issue. There is something called an interplanetary defense council. It is always fun to tell people you work on it. Can't tell you where the meetings are or if they are even on earth.

  • Microaggressor||

    Cathy voted for SMOD 2016.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    To be fair, that was the only sane choice.

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    It shouldn't be much longer now before Japan builds a giant robo-thing that can be piloted by five plucky young adults one of which is a female with large breasts. No need for the US to be throwing money away.

  • John||

    Will the female be dressed like Sailor Moon? Just asking for a friend.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    More likely to be wearing a skin-tight bodysuit or a leotard and thigh-high boots with high heels.

  • John||

    That will work too.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Oh and regardless of what her name is, everybody will call her Princess.

  • CE||

    And she will be played by Scarlett Johanssen and people will complain.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    Haha

    Well Scarlett is a good correct-thinking Democrat so the complaints only went so far

  • Trigger Warning||

    John, you misspelled "Asuka Langley."

  • Cynical Asshole||

    five plucky young adults one of which is a female with large breasts.

    Only one? Just make sure one of them is also a moody emo fuckhead with daddy issues.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    And it will come with AI.

    So basically at the end of the day, you're fucking Siri.

  • CE||

    Ironically, the AI love interest was already played by Scarlett Johanssen.

  • Idle Hands||

    How could you write this entire article without a single Armageddon reference?

  • John||

    Wasn't it Space Cowboys where they saved the earth from an astroid?

  • Idle Hands||

    No that was a Russian satellite that had a nuclear payload.

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    I thought that was Ukraine.

  • Hugh Akston||

    "When the government calls, we all have a duty, if you have a particular expertise that can serve the nation," he responded. "I think you need to serve."

    Eat a dick

  • Juice||

    Right? What a fucking tool.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The government calls for dick eaters.

  • Cy||

    Far too often.

  • BYODB||


    The U.N. Outer Space Treaty puts some limits on the militarization of space: It bans the use of weapons of mass destruction outside the Earth's atmosphere, and it prohibits the installation of military bases on asteroids or the moon.


    What, exactly, is on the Boeing X-37 and who, exactly, is going to double check?


    And, for the record, other nations seem to give zero fucks about a 'militarized space'.


    In terms of space and space warfare, who gives a fuck about missiles when you just drop a ball of sufficient size and mass and it has essentially the same effect?

  • Agammamon||

    As for that Chinese ASAT link - we (as usual) did it first. Kind of hard to blame someone else for trying to learn how to do what we already do.

    However, those are ground (uh, air) launched weapons and don't count towards military assets *in* space.

  • BYODB||

    What incident are you referring to with the U.S.? Honest question. I know the U.S. blew up one of our 'spy' satellites shortly after the Chinese littered space with satellite debris. (Not that it's very clean up there, but much worse now.)

  • BYODB||

    Never mind, it's cited in my own link.

    I suppose that, in a few decades, most of the Chinese junk will have deorbited as well. It still grinds my gears a bit though.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The famed astrophysicist thinks a lot of people are only against the Space Force because it was Trump's idea.

    He's probably right about that. I think a lot of people are wrong about what exactly the "Space Force" is going to be too. AFAIK the Space Force will really just be a single unified command for all the various existing and planned military satellite programs. So instead of the Air Force, Navy, etc. having their own satellite programs they'll all be under one command. Which, on paper at least, seems like it might be more efficient. Although this is the government so I'm sure they'll fuck it up.

    The one thing I'm not sure of is how the NRO's intelligence satellites will be handled. I highly doubt the NRO will want to give up control of their satellites, plus if I'm not mistaken a lot of the people operating those satellites are often civilian contractors, not military personnel.

    A lot of people seem to be under the impression that the "Space Force" idea is about militarizing space and seem to be picturing X-Wings and TIE Fighters and shit. I'm pretty sure we're still bound by the Outer Space Treaty when it comes to deploying offensive weapons in space. Although some sort of system for detecting and diverting or destroying near earth asteroids wouldn't be the worst idea, just prohibitively expensive.

  • Juice||

    I never understood why there was the NGA in addition to the NRO. Seems like they basically do the same things.

  • John||

    NRO owns planes and NGA owns satellites. When you think about the differences involved in flying planes versus flying satellites, it makes sense for them to be separate offices.

  • Juice||

    Pretty sure the NRO operates the hell out of satellites.

  • John||

    You are right. NRO is more straight up spying on other countries. NGA is mapping and direct battlefield intelligence. That seems to be the difference.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    I fought some NGA's in WoW. I hate those snakey fuckers in Desolace

  • Juice||

    Just looked it up. NRO designs, builds and operates satellites while the NGA mainly analyzes data from those satellites among other things.

  • Bubba Jones||

    That makes sense.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I should have refreshed. Oh well.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    NRO owns planes and NGA owns satellites.

    Not quite. According to their wikipedia page the NRO "designs, builds, and operates the reconnaissance satellites of the U.S. federal government, and provides satellite intelligence to several government agencies, particularly signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the NSA, imagery intelligence (IMINT) to the NGA, and measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) to the DIA." Of course they don't really design or build the satellites, usually either Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman or some other company does that under contract, but whatever. In a lot of ways them and the Air Force Space Command are already a de facto "Space Force," they're just not integrated together. I foresee a lot of in fighting and bureaucratic turf wars in the near future.

    The NGA takes the imagery data from the NRO satellites and analyzes it and does a bunch of stuff with it. What exactly either agency does is a little bit deliberately obscure and hidden under layers of secrecy.

  • Microaggressor||

    "a total disruption of the agreed law that outer space is the common heritage of all humankind."

    Space Communism isn't a very good band name.

  • Just Say'n||

    Space Democratic Socialism?

  • Shirley Knott||

    The return of SDS!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Or just Space Socialist

    aka the SS

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    SDS with TDS!

  • John||

    I for one do not want to go to bed by the light of a communist moon.

  • Aloysious||

    How about a Havana Moon?

  • John||

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    Santana? FUCK YOU. CHUCK BERRY MOTHERFUCKER.

  • Aloysious||

    That's, like, so racisty and shit.

  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger||

    You're deplatforming a black guy with a Hispanic guy. Intersectionality tells me that you're the racist here, honky.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Amen. Chuck Berry FTW

  • CE||

    Space Tragedy of the Commons, I think.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Space Rangers: my elementary school day dreams are finally coming to fruition.

  • Juice||

    You wouldn't want to hit an asteroid with nukes to send it off course. That might fragment it and make it even more dangerous and unpredictable. You might want to put some sort of rockets or other type of propulsion system on one side of it and gradually nudge it away from an Earthbound collision course.

  • John||

    Yeah, nuking an asteroid is a pretty stupid idea. The only way you could stop one is to know it was coming well in advance and then gently change its course so that it avoids earth.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Cracking it into smaller sizes that would disintegrate upon entry into Earth's atmosphere would be safer but more challenging.

    -Armageddon shout out!

  • Juice||

    Well, that would take a lot of nukes depending on the size of the asteroid and again the fragmentation would not be predictable.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Hence the more challenging part.

    Nudging the body is the easiest but depending on trajectory, we might have to deal with it again.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    Almost like a fat girl

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Using giant lasers to nudge it off course is another option that's been suggested. Most of the options for changing its trajectory are rather slow and would require us to be able to detect it at a pretty large distance, which is really the main stumbling block.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    It would be pretty stupid of humans to have the technology to defend Earth from a man-killer space rock and never even investigate if we should do it.

    Making sure humans dont follow dinosaurs into extinction might take some this sexual tension of this recent inter-nation hostility.

  • ||

    Meh. The second sun will kill us all first.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I had never heard of that conspiracy theory. Thanks for that tidbit to look up.

  • John||

  • CE||

    the first sun's already got that covered.

  • Careless||

    Such strikes are a genuine threat, albeit a very unlikely one.

    they're not an unlikely one, they're an uncommon one. The Earth will, at some point, be hit again by a meteor large enough to do real damage. It's likely. Not very likely to happen while I'm alive, though

  • BYODB||

    ^ An important difference.

  • WoodChipperBob||

    Someone paid attention in Probability and Statistics class.

  • ||

    BUT..if I were to build a defense system I would propose a giant inflatable Neil in a karate stance.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    With a speech bubble saying "Watch out guys, we're dealing with a badass over here."

  • Rockabilly||

    Hey man. Neil was over my house las week. We dropped some acid and watched 'Meteor.' I think he took it too literally.

    It's only a movie, man. Not real

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVQrq-TUZIw

  • SutureSelf||

    "Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson..."

    Yes, he's famous. Yes, he's an astrophysicist. But those are two unrelated facts.

  • Bubba Jones||

    boom

  • CE||

    Some people are good at science. Some people are good at explaining things to average people. Not many people are good at both. Give him a break.

  • Jerryskids||

    "When the government calls, we all have a duty, if you have a particular expertise that can serve the nation," he responded. "I think you need to serve."

    Duty. Heh, heh, he said "duty". Heh, heh.

    But I agree, a Space Force is a great idea. The reality of a Space Force, on the other hand, is going to be a nightmare.

  • DRM||

    1) There is no such thing in international law as "the common heritage of all humankind", anywhere.

    2) The only treaty regarding outer space or the objects in it that designates anything as the "common heritage of mankind" is the Moon Treaty. That treaty uses the phrase specifically of the Moon itself. Further, the only parties to that treaty are 18 countries of whom none have the capability of launching anything into space, much less all the way to the Moon.

    So when the University of Kent's Gbenga Oduntan claims that there is "agreed law" that "outer space is the common heritage of all humankind", that associate professor in International Commercial Law is blatantly and (presumably) knowingly lying.

  • Rhywun||

    I said it last time... the first country that can militarize the moon or an asteroid, will do so. What is anyone else gonna do about it?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Block them on Twitter.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And paint side facing the Earth America colors.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Better to do this with an international force. Otherwise it will just lead to an arms race and that will be a huge waste of money.

  • Sevo||

    "When the government calls, we all have a duty, if you have a particular expertise that can serve the nation," he responded. "I think you need to serve."

    Bull
    .
    .
    .
    shit.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Serve lunch.

  • lafe.long||

    Tunguska was not that long ago. If it'd had a slightly steeper trajectory, some serious shit would've gone down.

    We go through the Taurids twice a year. It's only a matter of time.

  • CE||

    Or if it hit a major city, the same trajectory would have been pretty bad.

  • CE||

    From WIkipedia:

    The explosion over the sparsely populated Eastern Siberian Taiga flattened 2,000 square kilometres (770 square miles) of forest, yet caused no known human casualties. The explosion is generally attributed to the air burst of a meteoroid. It is classified as an impact event, even though no impact crater has been found; the object is thought to have disintegrated at an altitude of 5 to 10 kilometres (3 to 6 miles) rather than to have hit the surface of the Earth.[3]

    The Tunguska event is the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. Studies have yielded different estimates of the meteoroid's size, on the order of 60 to 190 metres (200 to 620 feet), depending on whether the body was a comet or a denser asteroid.[4]

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    Some would say that a Tab Force would be a lot more efficient than a Space Force.

  • Agammamon||

    Neil deGrasse Tyson: We Need a Space Force to Protect the Earth From Asteroids

    OMFG this guy is a moron.

    Deflecting asteroids is not like in Armageddon. You're not going to send people up there to put a nuke in it.

    You're going to send a low-powered *remotely operated* spacecraft to rendevouse with it years early and then spend that time nudging it off course.

    If you can't detect it that early - and a 'space force' isn't going to improve your deep-space tracking capability - then 500 Bruce Willis' are not enough to save you.

  • Agammamon||

    FFS squirrels - that's not a reply to you Bronze Kopesh.

    Continuing on, even if we're going to blow up a nuke to deflect it, we're still going to blow a nuke up a way's away from it to work it like an Orion propulsion system. And while yes, I certainly think a military organization could do this better than NASA - that's only because NASA is pretty shite. Otherwise NASA actually has a lot more experience doing the very things that need to be done to get that nuke in the right position at the right time.

  • Warren||

    "Today, you're not questioning, 'why is there an Air Force,'"

    I absolutely am. It's a totally useless branch of the military. Always has been. The other three branches all have their own aircraft. The USAF provides nothing in that isn't done better somewhere else.

  • Agammamon||

    1. Air superiority over a longer timeframe and range than the Navy can provide (the Marines can't provide it at all).

    2. Heavy bombing.

    3. Air logistic transport.

  • Peacedog||

    Tyson is right about this one, but not for the reasons specified.

    Space Force needs to be separate largely because the USAF doesn't give two fucks about space for anything other than comms and imagery.

    And treaties about space can't even be used for toilet paper they are so worthless. Don't confuse the inability to do more in the domain on the part of the Chinese and Russians with a lack of desire.

    Claim the high ground and keep it. All of the other potential players in that realm would be less kind overseers by far.

  • zaphod||

    I'm all for a Space Force but only if it's part of the Army. That way the West Point grads would be Space Cadets, and their Special Forces would be Space Rangers.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Space Marines!

  • CE||

    Them's Navy boys.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Is there really a need to make the Space Command larger, or to add to the alphabet soup of space agencies?"

    For the lolz

    Free Kekistan!

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Kekistani freedom is a subject that ellicits a mixed response here in Kochistan.

  • CE||

    Asteroid strikes are a "very unlikely" threat???? They're a virtual certainty over a long enough time scale. May as well start preparing the defenses now.

    At least we have Bruce Willis until this Space Force gets off the ground!

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