On May 14 the Senate Subcommittee on Space and Aviation was holding a hearing on “The Emerging Space Environment: Operational, Technical, and Policy Challenges“ when the chair of the subcommittee, Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, brought a little excitement to what would seem to be an esoteric subject.
Cruz said, in support of creating a Space Force, “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
“Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration,”
The gentle reader will notice that the term “space pirates” never passed Senator Cruz’s lips.
That fact did not prevent the mockery from spewing forth from Cruz’s many enemies.
Caroline McCarthy, the VP of a firm called Truex, tweeted, “Oh my god. Ted Cruz’s new priority is SPACE PIRATES. Inject this right into my veins.”
Matt Deitsch, a survivor of the Parkland school massacre and an anti-2nd Amendment activist added, “Imagine representing a state that has had multiple mass shootings in schools, churches and at the police over your tenure……. and using your position to fight ‘space pirates.’”
Pollster Frank Luntz stated, “You laugh now, but wait till it’s the year 2350 and you realize Ted Cruz was right.”
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, something of a pirate himself, posted a skull and crossbones flag on Twitter.
Senator Cruz understandably was not amused.
He tweeted, “Sure, a frigate w/ skull & crossbones in space is unlikely anytime soon, but what MSNBC conveniently omits is the threat of piracy, espionage & violence from rogue & rival NATIONS is very real. Indeed, China has already developed & tested weapons to destroy satellites in space.”
Later Cruz added, “Hey @jack how come Twitter’s ‘moment’ quotes all the snarky leftists making fun of my comments, but doesn’t include my tweets in response explaining the real point that NATIONS like China have already developed & tested weapons to destroy satellites?”
Indeed, that was the point Cruz was trying to make. The threat is not from some space-faring Captain Jack Sparrow hijacking a helium 3 shipment from the moon, but rather countries like China destroying America’s military and commercial satellites in a space version of Pearl Harbor.
The Chinese tested an anti-satellite weapon in 2007 on one of its own dead weather satellites, exploding it into an expanding field of space debris. China has since developed more sophisticated weapons that could blind satellites with lasers or grapple them and send them plunging into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The mocking became so over the top that Eric Berger, who writes about space for Ars Technica, noted, “I get the hate for @SenTedCruz. I do. But in the Senate, I’d count him among a handful of members interested in space for reasons other than pork, and someone who has taken steps toward improving space policy through legislation.”
Indeed, Cruz has passed landmark commercial space legislation that ensures that future lunar and asteroid miners will own the minerals they extract.
He is also a warm supporter of NASA’s Project Artemis return to the moon program and an even more enthusiastic fan of sending humans to Mars.
But Berger placed his finger on the matter.
The issue was not standing up a Space Forced to battle threats to American space assets, whether one calls that threat “space pirates” or the Chinese military.
The issue is Ted Cruz, who is thoroughly despised by much of the media and the establishment of both parties.
Cruz is highly intelligent and has the quaint notion that an office holder should legislate in the same way he campaigned.
That fact is one reason he butted heads with the Republican senate leadership when he conducted an old-fashioned filibuster to attempt to defund Obamacare.
The accusation that Cruz is the most hated man in the Senate is only a slight exaggeration.
Hence, when the opportunity to make a meme about Cruz and “space pirates” presented itself, the senators many enemies screamed in delight and leaped.
However, Senator Cruz was describing a serious problem the United States faces, something that ought not to be mocked by people who seem, on its face, to have never quite left middle school.