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Why jokes about the Space Force have soared to new heights

Trump has conceded that Space Force started as an offhand joke, which is fitting since an awful lot of people are laughing at it now.
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Space Force Senior Enlisted Advisor CMSgt Roger Towberman, with President Donald Trump, presents the Space Force Flag on May 15, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

By Donald Trump's own admission, the push for a Space Force started as an offhand joke.

As regular readers know, the president said in March 2018, in reference to a conversation he claims to have had with White House staff, "You know, I was saying it the other day, because we are doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said, 'Maybe we need a new force. We'll call it Space Force." And I was not really serious. Then I said, 'What a great idea. Maybe we'll have to do that.'"

In the months that followed, administration officials felt compelled to act on Trump's not-really-serious idea, launching a major policy initiative intended to turn the Republican's joke into a branch of the United States military. As of a year ago, oddly enough, the U.S. Space Force is now one of eight uniformed services of the nation's military.

With this background in mind, it seems perfect that the outgoing president's offhand joke has turned into something an awful lot of people are laughing at it.

Earlier this year, for example, the United States Space Force unveiled its utility uniforms, which were notable in large part because they were camouflage. George Takei noted at the time that it was "unclear" why "there's a need for camouflage ... in space."

On a related note, it was just a week later when the Space Force unveiled its official logo, which looked eerily similar to the logo from the Star Trek franchise.

Nearly a year later, it's probably fair to say the mockery has reached a new level. As the New York Times reported over the weekend:

The United States Space Force, the newest branch of the American military, created to protect the country's galactic interests, has given its members an official name: Guardians. The new name came after a yearlong selection process drawing on hundreds of submissions from the general public and research from space professionals.

It was, of course, inevitable that Space Force members would get a name. Those who serve in the U.S. Navy, for example, are known as sailors. Those who serve in the U.S. Air Force are known as airmen. Space Force servicemembers would obviously need something comparable.

In the Netflix comedy, Space Force, Steve Carell refers to the branch's members as "Spacemen," which was probably a bit too silly to be adopted in real life. But given the popularity of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and the fact that the Space Force was already the butt of jokes before Friday's announcement, the official new name doesn't appear to be helping the branch gain credibility. (The role of "Guardians" in The Handmaid's Tale doesn't help, either.)

Making matters just a little worse, when the Department of Defense unveiled the new name, it did so alongside a creed of sorts for the Space Force: "Heritage - Mission - Culture." It wasn't at all clear what "heritage" and "culture" have to do with the new branch or its work.

The same announcement included the text, "A Name Chosen By Space Professionals, For Space Professionals," above an image that could seen in one of two ways: either something was being launched from Earth into space, or something was crashing into Earth from space.

Given the context, the ambiguity wasn't helpful.

As for the inevitable question -- Will the incoming administration put an end to this unnecessary exercise that Trump admits started as an offhand joke? -- the Associated Press reported late last week, "President-elect Joe Biden has yet to reveal his plans for the Space Force in the next administration."