It’s not true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. You often get several, and it’s to the shame of the US Space Force, created by former President Donald Trump in 2018, that it’s blown every one of its many efforts to present itself to the American public.
The latest missed opportunity came on Tuesday when Space Force launched its anthem at a conference in suburban Washington. The anthem, “Semper Supra” (meaning “Always On Top” if you’ve never learned Latin, and also the branch’s motto) creaks like a rejected song from The music man. At least it only lasts 43 seconds. Check out the overworked lyrics:
We are the mighty watchful eye,
Guardians beyond the blue,
The invisible front line,
Brave and faithful fighters.
Boldly reaching into space,
There is no limit to our sky.
Standing guard day and night,
We are the Space Force above.
“Semper Supra” reads like a list of currencies, as POLITICO’s Steve Heuser tweeted. Military.com gave the final verdict on the anthem: “It’s not a banger.” But the anthem isn’t Space Force’s most laughable mistake. Previously, the force’s exaggerated uniforms were compared to something out of the ordinary Battlestar Galactica wardrobe. The branch’s “delta” emblem and flag have been (unfairly) denounced as star trek scams (turns out the Starfleet Command insignia was inspired by historical military markings, not the other way around). The name applied to members of the Space Force, “Guardians”, was mocked from all corners when then-Vice President Mike Pence announced it, especially from guardians of the galaxy Fans. “Pence might as well have gone ahead and made the Space Force motto ‘I am Groot,'” Andrea Towers of The Wrap wrote. The name could have been even worse, as POLITICO’s report proves. on the rejects.
Space Force Headquarters’ green must be trapped with thousands of lawn rakes, as branch decision makers seem to step on one every six months. The idea of a space-oriented military branch isn’t inherently silly, so why did the organization’s deployment feel like a mix of groundhog day and the deployment of New Coke?
Some of the blame can be placed on Trump, who tainted the brand with his tainted image when his announcement spawned a military organization whose foundation had been in the works for some time. Trump admits that the first time he offered Space Force to his White House staff, he was joking. Soon he decided the force should be real, but it was welcomed by almost everyone because of his associations with Trump. It didn’t help Space Force’s branding that Trump bragged about it as if it was the equivalent of a space-based Ivanka, talked about it in his fundraising letters and sold unofficial Space Force merchandise to supporters during the 2020 campaign.
But not everything can be blamed on our beleaguered ex-president. Thanks to a century of sci-fi movies, space is pre-marked as a fantastical place where fictional Wookiees, pointy-eared humanoids, and star-eating monsters reside. For every child who can identify Neil Armstrong, there are a thousand who can tell you who James Kirk is and how he grew up. It’s one of the reasons Jeff Bezos’ fiery phallus became an object of ridicule, something Elon Musk had to endure until his Falcon 9 became a remarkably reliable space cargo carrier. Even so, people still laugh at Musk whenever he talks about a manned mission to Mars, which despite its and NASA’s successes, we still see as a place of fiction and weird creatures and not as a place for real people.
Space, when not shrouded in NASA’s sheath or viewed through a telescope, begins as a punchline. That’s why Steve Carell’s Netflix series space force received the green light. People start laughing the minute you say the words “Space Force,” so why not make a sitcom out of it? Mel Brooks was the first to appreciate the hilarity of space with space balls, his 1987 send-off of Star Wars. Space is a found joke.
Space Force command seems to have realized that it stands on a thin line between laughingstock and gravitas, and anything it says or does can be mocked. That’s why when the Pentagon proposed that Space Force take responsibility for monitoring UFOs (or UAPs in modern parlance), the branch ducked, knowing it would be taken less seriously if affected. monitoring flying saucers.
What, if anything, can Space Force do to combat its permanent gag status? Are they waging an unwinnable war? Many people are taking it seriously, according to recruitment figures, with more than 42,000 people inquiring about 500 vacancies. Maybe nothing can be done. The Space Force finds itself in a place similar to that of Sen. William Scott (R-Va.) who, in 1974, was named in a new times cover story by then-correspondent Nina Totenberg as the dumbest member of Congress. He stupidly called a press conference to retaliate, but it only resulted in this Washington Post headline: “Scott denies he’s ‘the dumbest’.”
Instead of directly combating the derision, Space Force would be wiser to assume its role as branch jester and overdo it. There’s nothing less funny than the guy asking you to laugh at his jokes. Suggested new motto: “Space Force: We’re funny as shit”.
2001: A Space Odyssey did everything the Space Force set out to do, only better. Send your favorite space odyssey lines to [email protected]. No new email alert subscriptions are honored at this time. My Twitter the power supply is fattier than the Van Allen belt. My RSS food is a black hole. Nothing that goes in there ever comes out.