President Donald Trump wants a Space Force to expand U.S. military power beyond the globe. That’s a problem for flat earthers who incorrectly believe the world is a flat disc floating through space.
On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence announced plans to launch “Space Force,” a sixth branch of the U.S. military by 2020. The proposed branch would be reserved specifically for outer space operations. Military experts say the Air Force currently carries out space missions just fine. And flat earthers say going to space is basically impossible, so why bother trying.
“While there is some difference of opinion between different Flat Earth groups, I think it's fair to say that the overall belief is that sustained spaceflight is impossible, or at the very least cost-prohibitive,” Pete Svarrior, a spokesperson for the Flat Earth Society told The Daily Beast.
The Flat Earth Society is one of the best-known, apparently serious groups of people who claim Earth is not round, but a disk, maybe one covered with a dome. The flat earth movement has seen a surge in attention in recent years, fueled in part by several minor celebrity adherents, and in part by its convergence with other extreme-fringe conspiracy theories. Flat eartherism, already popular among a small set of conservative evangelicals, now crops up semi-regularly in forums for QAnon, an unhinged pro-Trump conspiracy that has led to multiple armed conflicts.
Svarrior said he wasn’t sure flat earthers leaned conservative.
“In my experience, the Flat Earth Society leans somewhat towards the center of the political spectrum,” he said. “Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are plenty of Flat Earth Trump supporters, but I wouldn't say it's a disproportionately large group.”
But the flat earth and pro-Trump movements share strands of the same conspiratorial, counter-factual DNA, which has resulted in forums and Facebook groups like the 101-member “QAnon flat earthers club,” which accuses Hillary Clinton of being a pedophile and German Chancellor Angela Merkel of being Adolf Hitler’s daughter. When Earth is flat, other untruths are trivial.
Which makes Trump’s proposed Space Force an open question for pro-Trump flat earthers, many of whom reject NASA as a deep state plot to dupe the masses into believing the world is round. Svarrior’s set of flat earthers believe that, even if manned spacecraft made their way into orbit (manned spacecraft are currently in orbit), photographic evidence of a round Earth wouldn’t change their minds.
“They would only be able to observe the illuminated portion of the Earth, which would be roughly circular in shape,” he said. “Hypothetically, this shouldn't be conclusive either way.”
Svarrior and the Flat Earth Society previously published a blog post implying that Elon Musk’s company SpaceX had faked a video showing them launching a car into orbit.
Does Trump believe the earth is a dome-topped frisbee?
“It's a possibility, but we're not privy to any details,” Svarrior said. “Then again, President Obama famously ‘had no time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.’ We haven't heard a similar statement from President Trump just yet.”