What If Earth Had Space Marines? | Unveiled
What If Earth Had Space Marines? | Unveiled

What If Earth Had Space Marines? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Dylan Musselman
Is it time for soldiers to travel into space? In this video, Unveiled discovers what a real world "Star Wars" would really be like... If Earth had space marines, would that mean that we'd also have an alien enemy? Or would we simply be fighting amongst ourselves? In either case, what skills would space soldiers need? What do you think... If Earth had space marines, would you sign up to join?

What If Earth Had Space Marines?

Throughout history, we’ve seen wars fought in the trenches, in the skies and across the seas. But could a future conflict force us into uncharted territory? As the gaps between real-world technologies and science fiction concepts continue to close, will we soon be sending armies into the cold and deadly vacuum of outer space?

This is Unveiled and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; What if Earth had space marines?

Technology changes how humanity fights… and our tech is now at a point where we’re reaching speeds of thousands of miles per hour in the sky while entire cities can be destroyed by single weapons. Add into the equation that we’re also aiming to venture further and further out into the solar system - even if with peaceful intentions - and more and more countries are setting up “space forces” as a means of security.

During the Cold War, the US and Soviet Union seemed at times already on the brink of an off-Earth battle, with both sides reportedly developing space weapons - although neither deployed them. Fast forward to today, and America is promising a standalone “US Space Force”, while Russia has the Russian Areospace Forces, India has a Defense Space Agency, and the militaries of other nations including China, the UK, Canada and Australia all have various subdivisions to deal with the perceived “threat of space”. For the most part, these organisations are charged with defending their country’s interests in space - that is, their satellites - given how much the modern world depends on them. But, while most of that is done from the ground (and from behind computer screens), could we one day see actual armies facing off across new-age frontlines on battlefields outside of Earth’s atmosphere?

The life of a solider in such an army would be unique. Like on Earth, these marines would live at their base… but now that base would be thousands of feet above the planet. The cost of sending anything into space is appropriately astronomical, although private, commercial firms have been working to drive the cost down. Regardless, it’d be no use just sending troops skywards as and when they were needed - instead, they’d have to be a permanent presence, able to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

Right now, the International Space Station is a one-off feat of incredible engineering. But if Earth had space marines there would need to be countless other structures just like it, only with at least one major difference - they’d be purpose-built for battle. These new space stations would also be significantly bigger and even more advanced - given that the ISS at full capacity holds just six astronauts. Military budgets tend to dramatically dwarf spending on space exploration, however… so if the two we to be combined, we’d at least see the technology progress at a much faster rate.

Again in the quest to maintain a constant presence, space marines would have to commit to incredibly long shifts - perhaps up to a year at a time. Today, the longest anyone has spent in space during a single stay is 437 days and 18 hours - which is more than 14 months. The record was set by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov in 1995, but it would have to be beaten time and time again were whole militaries to migrate into space. The long list of problems that long-haul astronauts could face is well known - with concerns ranging from how their bodies would physically hold-up… to how they’d be affected by the radiation… to the psychological impact that prolonged isolation could have. But now we’d have all of that plus the need to maintain an army... Military training would be a completely different prospect!

Here’s where the “zero-gravity aspect” comes into play. On a basic level, because of the weightlessness they’d experience, soldiers would have to exercise on only purpose-built machines, and for a lot longer than they would have needed to on Earth - to prevent muscle wastage. But, more specifically, there’d be daily drills on how to simply move in space with maximum efficiency, with traditional assault courses replaced by zero-gravity versions… and everything geared towards ensuring that no-one finds themselves cast off into “space war no-man’s-land” - floating into the abyss with no way to avert their course.

Standard weapons training would feel even more alien... Because what types of weapons would space marines even be issued with? It’s not a new problem, as when the Cold War countries realised that - should war ever reach space - then shooting traditional guns and ammo would propel the person firing them backwards, they set to work devising new methods more appropriate for the environment. The answer they settled on; Directed-energy Weapons, including lasers and particle beams. Not only would these be far easier to operate, but they’d also be better suited to war waged across long distances. While a space marine’s missions could well include some close combat - should they be storming an enemy ship, for example - with the vastness of space to work in they’d mostly be taking aim at exceptionally long-range. So, the death rays of sci-fi aren’t that far from the truth!

In general, an army of space marines would look and function quite differently, too. Some jobs and duties on board a space base would be similar to what’s needed on Earth - with intelligence soldiers gathering intel, engineers building ships and life support technology and communications officers relaying information - but there’d be new positions, as well. Logistics teams would be akin to mini-NASAs, managing launches and missions from a control room in the sky… and we’d see all-new classes of pilot emerge, able to fly all types of off-Earth warship.

Whatever the rank, they’d all be dressed very differently! Traditional uniforms would be out; replaced by military-grade spacesuits, designed to protect their wearers from radiation and enable them to breathe. And, while standard parachutes and ejector seats wouldn’t be needed, individual jet propulsion packs would be vital - providing a “second chance” to anyone flying a downed ship. And these are something that NASA has previously worked on, with the “Manned Manoeuvring Unit” (or MMU) in the 1980s. The MMU allowed for untethered spacewalks but was only briefly used for a couple of missions. At a future time when our tech is advanced enough to stage war in space, improved versions of the iconic jet-powered backpack would surely be standard kit.

All of this said, while nations on Earth do appear to be edging towards some form of space-based combat, right now it really does look more of a digital threat than a physical one - where the aims are to down satellites rather than marine-carrying battleships. However, say a physical enemy did present itself in space - some kind of extraterrestrial foe, perhaps - then Earth would suddenly be forced into finding ways to fight it. If it happened tomorrow, we’d have only a few designs of yesteryear to dust down and try to build from. But, over time, we’d have no choice but to assemble a genuine, space-faring united front - with as many sci-fi-style gadgets as the real world would allow. And that’s what would happen if Earth had space marines.