I’d agree. The Air Force were definitely involved in the Shuttle’s design, as detailed in Maciej Ceglowski’s excellent post from around the time of the post-Columbia return to flight, and their demands significantly changed the project (despite the fact that, in the end, the lunar orbit that the Shuttle was pushed to be ready for was never flown).
There’s also the fact that American intelligence (specifically the National Reconnaissance Office) has long been flying spy satellite missions that required complicated airborne recovery of the photographic payloads. (By contrast, the Soviets used a modified Vostok spacecraft with a parachute landing to ground right through their observing history. Generally, their programme did have a knack of being a weird mix of lower-tech (ground landing) but also higher (pressurised camera housing allowing re-use).)
While the advent of improved electronics allowed the subsequent KH-11 to avoid film return issues, I’m sure it was useful for these to be both launched by and serviceable by the Shuttle; indeed, a 1990 Atlantis launch (STS-36) is believed to have placed an upgraded spy satellite into orbit.
None of this is conclusive, but it’d be hard to believe that the NRO (and probably Air Force) weren’t supporting the Shuttle programme behind the scenes, at least until they got their replacements ready. (Note the first flight date.)
The whole thing is well worth a read, particularly for noting that, while Presidents and candidates love to talk about NASA, it’s the legislative branch (responding to the Office of Management and Budget’s requests) that shares responsibility for the year-to-year funding of the agency.
“I’d love to do something like put a piece of moon rock on Mars and a piece of Mars on the moon, a sort of reverse archaeology,” she said while in San Francisco recently to install her two-work show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. No land artist or found-object sculptor has thought this big before. And, in Texas eight years ago on an artist’s residency, Parker got as far as interesting NASA in her proposal to send a meteor back into space.
“They seemed very enthusiastic,” she said, “but I think they had a lot of political problems around that time, there was all this anti-NASA stuff. Then I got back to London, and tried to do it long-distance, and it was much harder. And there was all this talk about why are we spending American tax dollars supporting a British artist. It got a lot more problematic. So I thought about approaching the Russians.” A ripple of laughter announced that that move never got beyond the thinking stage.