Space pirates? Ted Cruz has a point
It was easy to board the Let’s Kick Ted Cruz starship last week after he mentioned the threat of space pirates. The imagery of intergalactic buccaneers opportunistically cruising through space was meme gold, turning the senator into a punchline in a snap.
In a speech May 14, the Republican senator from Texas — also the chairman of the subcommittee on aviation and space — touched on why America needs a Space Force to defend our interests.
“Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors,” Cruz said. “Pirates threatened the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.”
It’s easy to see why it drew snorts from late-night talk-show hosts, as well as the far corners of the internet. Cruz shot back by pointing out that piracy and espionage by rogue nations are real.
In Ted’s defense, ye can laugh, but he’s got more than a wobbly peg leg to stand on.
Space is no longer the final frontier, a place where no man has gone before. These days, everybody is up there in one form or another. It isn’t just NASA that plans to return to the moon to stay; Space X also has plans to take a couple of private citizens around the moon next year. And last week, Space X planned to send dozens of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit, and that’s just a few of the 12,000 it wants to launch by 2027 to provide high-speed internet to the landlubbers back on Earth.
The European Union’s Copernicus program monitors the Earth and its environment, according to its website, “for the ultimate benefit of all European citizens.” According to SpaceWatch Middle East digital magazine, the United Arab Emirates leads the Middle East space industry with high-range observation satellites and plans to launch a probe scheduled to reach Mars by 2021. China has already placed a rover on the dark side of the moon and out of communication range, so it has to communicate information to one of its satellites.
And aside from China, perhaps, those are our mates, right? Of course, there are always rogues and disgruntled employees, some of whom could do damage with a turning of the tides. After all, those satellites that help us navigate the passage to our local supermarket were set up by someone.
We know we need to watch our backs; what we don’t know is if we need another branch of the military. We already have a space industry. Would another government agency really help our focus and increase our security, or would it just amount to more brass, bureaucracy and red tape? The Defense Department has asked for more than $306 million to establish a Space Force, and that’s a lot of loot.
Sure, the lingo I’m using is lame, but it’s done to parrot what was done to Cruz after his pirate remarks: cheap shots that ignore the real issue — which isn’t the threat of brigands from another galaxy.
Then again, maybe it’s too late anyway, since the brigands we know are scary enough.