On June 18, President Trump proposed a "separate but equal" new branch of the United States military: the Space Force, dedicated to fighting galactic wars.
But unlike another one of the president's highly publicized, seemingly improvisational ideas — the see-through, solar-paneled border wall — the Space Force moved a step closer to becoming a real thing this week.
In a speech on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence announced plans for the U.S. to establish a space force by the year 2020, drawn from elite members of other military branches, like existing special-ops forces. “Just as we’ve done in ages past, the United States will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield,” he said at the Pentagon. “The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.”
Why a Space Force?
The White House says a space force is necessary to guard against threats from other countries that might try to destroy satellites. China and Russia have tested weapons that could be used for that purpose: China destroyed one of its own satellites in a 2007 test, and Russia revived its defunct space force in 2011. But a U.S. force won't be with anybody unless Congress approves funding, and they already tabled the idea.
At least Defense Secretary Jim Mattis showed signs of coming around. Last year, he opposed creating a new military branch “at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions." This week, Mattis said the Pentagon and the White House “are in complete alignment” on the view of space as a potential battleground. But he didn't specifically advocate a Space Force.
Is Space Force real?
In his speech, Pence asked Congress for $8 billion in funding for space security. A full-fledged space force would cost significantly more, but no one knows how much yet.
Also on Thursday, Trump's 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale circulated an email asking supporters to vote on six proposed logos for the force. One of them contains the phrase "Mars Awaits." Another one closely resembles the NASA logo, which didn't escape notice on social media.
Wow. The first Space Force logo option is just the NASA logo rendered in red with Space Force replacing NASA...— Joel Mendelson (@JPMendelson) August 9, 2018
Wait, is...is the Space Force logo just the NASA logo with Donald Trump's hairpiece in it?— Kno (@Kno) August 9, 2018
(Yes, this is real) pic.twitter.com/wFkF7KI6T2
PENTAGON: You know what would be really useful? A dedicated and well-funded cyberwar division. As the Russians have demonstrated, this is--— Jonathan L. Howard (@JonathanLHoward) August 10, 2018
THE PRESIDENT: SPACE FOOOOORCE! Wanna see my Space Force logos?
PENTAGON: Not reall... Isn't that the NASA logo, but in red?
The concept of a space force roused Twitter critics ranging from Luke Skywalker to Russia.
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly on the Space Force: "The only person that I've heard say this is a fantastic idea is the Commander in Chief. The President of the United States. Everybody else says it's redundant. It's wasteful. We don't have the need out there right now"— Edward Hardy (@EdwardTHardy) August 10, 2018
Mark Hamill, Star Wars' iconic Skywalker, tweeted:
Russia seemed to mock the logo contest, tweeting one of its own.