In their 2019–20 Annual Allocations funding request, the Ryerson Astronomical Society (RAS) requested $102 million from Student Government (SG) to support the creation of a “Space Force ROTC.” ROTC, or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, is any university-based officer training program for training commissioned officers of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The RAS is UChicago’s astronomy RSO and aims to “observe the celestial luminaries in hushed awe” according to their website. The organization hosts weekly student and faculty presentations, weekly star viewings in the Ryerson rooftop observatory, “dark sky trips” to vantage points outside of Chicago, and occasional imaging workshops. Yearly funding is used to provide pizza for presentations and to maintain the observatory’s 100+-year-old rooftop telescope.
According to Dylan Sukay, president of the RAS, the organization “submits funny requests to SG every year as a long-running tradition.” In the 2018–19 academic year, the RAS requested $250,000,000 to buy the Yerkes Observatory, which was funded $2.25 “with the comment ‘CTA Bus Fare,’” Sukay said.
“We have documents in our office with funny requests from the ’90s,” Sukay said.
Other past requests have included funding to build and launch a full-scale replica of Sputnik, relocate the Astronomy Department, build a hyperloop to Yerkes, build an 80-inch telescope mirror, and develop a space elevator, some of which were funded with nominal awards ranging from $1.00 to $2.25 despite the often multimillion dollar request.
This year’s request, while in line with past years, also made a more serious point. “We are very against the weaponization of space and think it’s a shame that we (as a country) have chosen to make moves that lead to futures where we are more likely to jeopardize legal precedents like the Outer Space Treaty. Currently, a lot of exploration and research is very cooperative, and we think that leads to the best science,” Sukay said.
In December 2019, President Donald Trump signed legislation creating a Space Force branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as part of a new defense-spending bill. The Space Force was first mentioned by President Trump in 2018, a year prior to Annual Allocations funding the project.
UChicago currently has Army and Air Force ROTC programs, organized in conjunction with the University of Illinois–Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology, respectively. It does not, however, have a Space Force ROTC.
Student Government Annual Allocations funded $1.00 of the requested $102,000,000.