Roosevelt Lafontant had a dream. A Marine Corps officer assigned to the National Reconnaissance Office at the Pentagon, Lafontant had a back-row seat in late 2001 as the Marines spearheaded the invasion of landlocked Afghanistan. To reach Kandahar from their assault ships, the Marines had to fly more than 400 miles over Pakistan in rickety, heavy-lift helicopters. "There's got to be a better way," Lafontant recalled thinking.
There was a better way — one involving high technology and even higher ambition. As loopy as it sounded, Lafontant and like-minded officers wanted to send Marines into combat through space.
But robots would have gone first.
Lafontant's original dream, now on hold, was to land squads of troops from near-orbit, using a vehicle he called Sustain, short for "Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion."