It’s not real, Ted

Ted Cruz thinks we have to worry about “space pirates”. Really. I’m not making this up.

During a Tuesday hearing of the Senate’s subcommittee on Aviation and Space discussing space policy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) cited the threat of space pirates as a reason to back Trump’s unpopular “space force” idea. Cruz is the chair of the committee.

Discussing threats to commercial and governmental space assets, Cruz then veered off course into the realm of the fantastic.

“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 threaten the open seas and the same is possible in space.”

The threat of space piracy, Cruz said, now means America must recognize “the necessity of a space force.”

He’s quite annoyed that those danged Leftists are making fun of him, and is trying to defend his argument.

The threat of nations destroying commercial resources in space is not space piracy. The pirates he’s talking about were independent, lawless adventures robbing ships of cargo. There are no people living in space who might decide to start looting passing spaceships; there is no significant commercial cargo transport in space.

Coincidentally, the video game No Man’s Sky has just come out with a new update called “Outlaws” in which you have to fight off the depradations of space pirates. I’ve found that if you upgrade your phase beam and positron ejector they’re easily fought off.

Also, it’s a game. It’s not real, Ted.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    The alternative is that those necessities be met by an existing branch of service, the Air Force. But stop and think about that:
    There’s no air in space.

  2. says

    Also orbital mecanica are hard. I have 5000 hours in Kerbal space program and planning and executing an orbital rendezvous takes days of game time. Is Space Force the dumbest thing to come from the Trump administration? I’m not sure there’s a lot of competition. I will tell you this, there is no place to hide in space. We track space junk down to about one inch in LEO. Just another idiot who doesn’t know how space works.

  3. says

    Another point, one of the Space Shuttle’s mission profiles, that was never used, was to capture and return Russian satellites. That’s why the cargo bay was so huge. So I guess the USA is the closest thing to space pirates you can get.

  4. cartomancer says

    The HBO is telling me that pirates are all as gay as can be right now, so perhaps it’s an extension of the Republicans’ anti-LGBT+ agenda?

  5. PaulBC says

    BTW, anyone else notice that Vandenberg AFB is now Vandenberg SFB? I may have posted it to PZ’s blog already, but it was quite a WTAF moment for me on the drive back from SoCal recently.

  6. PaulBC says

    cartomancer@6 It’s those sexy eye patches. Why I am I suddenly thinking that “Gay Pirates of the Ionosqueer” could be an actual title for something? (All right, I need to go shake those sillies out.)

  7. cartomancer says

    Right, get me the head of Channel 4 on the phone, Gay Space Pirates is going to be the next big thing, and I want in on the ground floor.

  8. ardipithecus says

    They should do the American Thing, and give it over to the private sector. Letters of Marque oughta do it.

  9. robro says

    Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces…

    When Ted sings, “Don’t know much about history” he means it. Needless to say this Euro-centric perspective forgets that the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Chinese and other people of the world were putting out to sea, trading with their neighbors, and dealing with piracy.

  10. whheydt says

    First off…just how is Ted Cruz (R) the chairman of a Senate subcommittee when the Democrats are (just barely) in control of the Senate?

    Second, I wonder if Cruz knows the difference between a pirate and a privateer? (I say this as someone with an ancestor who spent a few months as a privateer, though I’m sure the British would have considered him to have been a pirate at the time.)

  11. birgerjohansson says

    Akira MacKenzie @ 12
    The Republicans have a portal into the multiverse. They have access to places where Obama killed grandma (and turned her into Soylent Green), places where millions of illegal immigrants were bused to the voting sites to cast illegal votes without anyone noticing (cloaking devices?), places where the laws of chemistry allow horse paste go cure covid and now an alternative Florida where the laws of mathematics favor trans people.

  12. Walter Solomon says

    I’m just imagining Somali space pirates commandeering the USS Enterprise and declaring “I’m the captain now. Engage warp.”

  13. birgerjohansson says

    Robro @ 11
    Not counting the nameless warriors seen on images of ships even earlier,
    I am pretty certain an Egyptian pharao built a fleet to crush the Sea Peoples during the bronze age.
    That was nearly a millennium before the classic Greeks.
    But the expensive private scool Ted went to mainly concentrated on Europeans.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Walter Solomon @ 15
    The German “Raumpatrouille” (1966) had german-speaking space pirates trying to hijack a space cruiser, maybe they are the ones he is thinking about?

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 14

    Having spent the last year listening to Knowledge Fight, I’m well aware that many right-wing wackos believe that the Satanic, Lizard-Jew-Aliens must announce their devious plans through the entertainment media as part of some sort of cosmic contract law.

  16. PaulBC says

    Akira Mackenzie@18

    announce their devious plans through the entertainment media as part of some sort of cosmic contract law

    Has anyone tried to explain to them that Wolfram & Hart is something Joss Whedon (or possibly David Greenwalt) made up for a TeeVee show and not an actual law firm in Los Angeles?

  17. birgerjohansson says

    We need not be pessimistic.
    The British authority on space reptiles, David Icke, has said not all space aliens are evil. Only the Jewish ones. (That sorta invites a lot of more questions)

  18. birgerjohansson says

    I get nostalgic. The level of creativity on this thread reminds me of “Dispatches From The Culture Wars”, hosted by the late Ed Brayton. :-)
    Dennis Hopper made a comedy (not the horrible Super Mario Brothers) where he was a space trucker that had trouble with corporate baddies monopolizing the commercial space trade. I still recall the pirate that had a prostethic penis powered by some lawnmower engine.

  19. says

    I got tripped up reading the first paragraph of the quote because it said Ted Cruz was chair of a Senate committee, which is currently extremely unlikely. Turns out this was almost three years ago.

  20. Walter Solomon says

    birgerjohansson @17
    Considering this is Ted Cruz, he probably got the idea from a spece-themed porn movie.

  21. Big Boppa says

    With Bezos and Musk venturing into space more and more is it really beyond the pale to think it’s only a matter of time before we see the Jolly Roger festooned on their dildo ships? Just asking questions…..

    — Tuckems, prolly on some not to distant future broadcast —

  22. birgerjohansson says

    Walter Solomon @ 25
    Yes, he watched it in Mexico while waiting for Texas to repair the electricity grid. Mexican space porn is famous.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    Big Boppa @ 26
    “Atlas Shrugged” has Ragnar the Pirate having a big role in trade, so I can see the Ayn Rand crowd getting inspired.

  24. larpar says

    We need the Space Force. Who else is going to keep Pluto and Mickey Mouse from hooking up?

  25. numerobis says

    Pirates typically have some state support, otherwise they can’t dock to repair their ships or trade their goods. Mostly in the 18th century Atlantic they were privateers under letters of marque from one European monarch or another. In the Barbary coast they operated openly with the acquiescence of the local rulers, and thus you could bribe the ruler and not get pirates attacking your ships. In Somalia they basically ran their part of the country.

  26. Walter Solomon says

    birgerjohansson @27
    That was after he watched at least two donkey shows. It makes sense why he wanted to go down there so badly.

  27. birgerjohansson says

    More idiots, this time down in Florida. The governor got trolled by an online hoax!
    “Florida CRT math book panic based on fake book image from Twitter”
    They are not sending their best.

  28. birgerjohansson says

    Re. @ 36
    Ladies and gentlemen, we have found a governor dumb enough to be Trump’s successor.

  29. PaulBC says

    Ray Ceeya@3

    I will tell you this, there is no place to hide in space.

    Arthur C. Clarke might have disagreed. I have no point to make except that your statement reminded me of that old short story. I haven’t thought about it in years.

  30. Reginald Selkirk says

    @22 @39 “Space Truckers is available on (free with ads). I’ve got my evening planned.

  31. robro says

    … how is Ted Cruz (R) the chairman of a Senate subcommittee

    I think that’s old info. Even the subcommittee name appears to have changed (“Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation”) with Kristen Sinema as chair, and Cruz as “Ranking Member.” And please, no jokes about his member ranking.

  32. whheydt says

    Re: numerobis @ #32…
    Don’t forget that–per the US Constitution–Congress has the power to issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal. (Of course, under current international law, they’d better not.) The ancestor I referred to earlier would have been sailing under a Letter of Marque issued by one of the New England states early in the US Revolutionary War. After he did that, he returned home to Charelston, SC and became an officer in the SC Navy, and not long thereafer was in command of a 16-gun Brig’o’War (the Notre Dame).

  33. wzrd1 says

    @birgerjohansson, ironically, Carl Sagan was assigned by the DoD to figure out a show of nuclear force by detonating a thermonuclear warhead on the moon. He quickly calculated how laughably tiny even our mightiest warhead would appear on the moon and the project was sent to the circular file.
    Still, nukes in space make sense to divert incoming asteroids or comets by ablation, but it kind of helps if you also have a delivery system that is interplanetary to put it near an offending object. Better is to leave the crap on the ground, where it can be updated, upgraded and hopefully forgotten.

    But, the entire subject does beg the question, is the air shield on Druidia safe and secure?

  34. says

    But you’re all missing the obvious connection: Mark Watney — Space Pirate. It’s right there in the documentary. And it would stick in ol’ Ted’s mind because we would have spent billions on it. But there’s one thing he’ll never do, the thing that Watney did to survive: Science the sh*t out of it.

    @13, because the Democrats do not have an actual majority in the Senate — it’s 50-50 with the Vice President breaking ties. This has happened before (several times before there were 50 states, too); there’s a traditional arrangement in which the parties split up the committee chairs, with the party to which the Vice President belongs gettings most but not all of them. There are similar arrangements regarding some of the more-important subcommittees.

  35. divineconspiracy667 says

    I’m extremely disappointed to see nobody mentioned the animated documentary film Captain Harlock – Space Pirate.

  36. blf says

    On the anti-satellite silliness, currently (in addition to China), the US, Russia, and India all have tested systems targeting low Earth orbit satellite (e.g, reconnaissance / spy satellites); none can threaten a geosynchronous (e.g, communications satellite), whilst Cruz isn’t quoting as claiming satellites in Clarke orbits are targetted, he’s stooopid enough to believe that.† The States and Russia did tests in the 1980s — over 30 years ago.

      † Perhaps there ought to be a rumour that a fleet of nefarious satellites is now in position to release the proven-dangerous chemical DHMO.

  37. lanir says

    @47: He’s a republican. I figure Bodacious Space Pirates is more his speed.

    @50: I thought he was referring to the time China checked two of their own satellites at each other. Because I can totally see our an armed branch of our government operating in force up there readyto… watch the collision happen? Maybe debate which satellite should get a ticket and which had the right of way?

  38. StevoR says

    There are no people living in space who might decide to start looting passing spaceships; there is no significant commercial cargo transport in space.

    Well, there are the astronaits and cosmonauts andof the International Space Station plus the taikonauts aboard China’s “Palace in the Sky” ( ) as well as commercial visitors eg from Space X and Blue Origin adn Branson & others likely soon but if any of those did get up to anything piratical it’d be pretty obvious and pretty pointless. Space would certainly making boarding unwilling ships difficult…

    SF aside, space pirates, yeah, nah.

  39. blf says

    lanir@51, “I thought [Cruz] was referring to the time China [tested an anti-satellite system]”.

    Yes, I believe he was. Possibly Cruz, and many people, don’t seem to realise such systems have been around, tested and known to work, for decades. What I was attempting to allude-to is Cruz is freaking out over an old jar of pickled tomatoes, or more likely, freaking out that actors other than Texas have such systems (albeit he’d prefer to not substitute “USA” for “Grand Empire of White Texas”).

  40. rrhain says

    The problem is that there is the reality of space and the fantasy of it. This goes back to Trump’s “Space Force.” Eveyrbody was making fun of him, but there has been a “Space Force” in the military since the 70s. AFSPC (Air Force Space Command) was a command branch of the US Air Force since we started having real presence in space. After all, who do you think manages the military satellites that we have in orbit? Who plans those missions, designs the payloads, tracks what’s up there, manages whatever data is being collected, etc.? Yep. AFSPC.

    The Air Force itself used to be a command branch of the Army. But as aviation became more sophisticated and the techniques of managing an aeronautic military force became more specialized, it was decided that it should be spun off of the Army and the Air Force was created as its own separate branch of the military.

    I can’t say whether or not there was sufficient build up of space-related military projects and demands that would justify spinning off a space-related branch from the Air Force just as the Air Force was spun off from the Army. I’m not privy to their activities. But there is a need for some sort of command that manages space-related threats. Thus, a “Space Force” of some sort is necessary.

    All that said, that’s not what Trump was thinking. He wasn’t looking at the demands being placed upon the Air Force in managing space and making a decision that those demands were sufficient to justify separating from the Air Force.

    No, he saw space as “PEW! PEW!” lasers and cadets in gleaming silver-shine spandex with bubble helmets.

    And that’s what Cruz is doing here, too. Yes, part of the military threat in space has to do with managing other countries’ space-based attacks. What if someone took out our satellites? There’s even an issue with regard to humans in space: The ISS houses Americans. Russia is currently at war with an ostensible ally, at least allied to us enough that we are imposing sanctions upon Russia. There was talk of the Russians abandoning the American on the ISS. That would be a job for a “Space Command” to manage. One might even colloquially refer to that as “piracy.”

    But that’s not what Cruz was thinking about. Not at first. It’s only after his ridiculousness came to the forefront and he was mocked for it that he tried to backtrack and talk about actual military threats in space that could conceivably be called “piracy” in a loose sense.

    I’m all for laughing at Cruz. But let’s not let that ridicule lead us to think that there is no need for us to be monitoring space for threats from other countries.

  41. StevoR says

    @ ^ rrhain :

    The ISS houses Americans. Russia is currently at war with an ostensible ally, at least allied to us enough that we are imposing sanctions upon Russia. There was talk of the Russians abandoning the American on the ISS. That would be a job for a “Space Command” to manage.

    Or NASA and SpaceX. We could also ask the Chinese for help like happened in the fictional rescue of Mark Watney in the Mars movie and book.

    Some informative reading here :

    Plus here :

    Also here :

    Space piracy may not yet be a real thing but space war certainly has the potential to get very nasty and have some serious impacts.

    I alsomiss the prospects of joint Russian-Amercian space missions to Mars (& beyond like Jupiter) that I grew up reading about inSF novels like Clarke’s Space Odyssey 2010.

  42. PaulBC says

    rrhain@55 My question would be whether anything has changed operationally since Trump introduced “Space Force” as a military branch. Vandenberg AFB has been launching rockets for a long time. Calling it Vandenberg SFB seems more like “rebranding” than making a useful change. The personnel needed for space operations is also probably much less than other branches (OK, I’m speculating here). If the existing branches were sufficient 40 years ago when Reagan announced SDI (which is still vaporware in its promised form) then I don’t see what has changed now that merits a new branch.

    I mean, why not have a “submarine force”? Surely subs are qualitatively different from surface navy operations. Do you have to split off a whole new branch for every military need?

    Whatever was going through Trump’s mind had less to do with meeting an actual need than drawing attention to himself, much as he did with the military display on July 4, 2019.

  43. lanir says

    @blf #54: Ah sorry if I was unclear. I was kind of trying to point out there’s not really a “weapon” in that example. Anything in space is a “weapon” at that point. Maybe his endgame is to deligitimize any other country having satellites. I’m sure that will go over well. And if we have a bunch of collisions up there, well, we’ll be stuck down here for decades or centuries waiting for it all to clear up. Perhaps a sideswipe at the billionaire space bros? It’s just weird he was willing to look like such a clown while doing it.

  44. rrhain says

    @57, PaulBC Like I said, I don’t know enough about the inner workings of AFSPC to say for certain if there was sufficient build-up of space-related projects to justify spinning off Space Force from the Air Force. To some degree, we already have: NASA. The military branches are also used to manage large-scale engineering projects and they are broken down based upon where they are: Projects on the land are part of the Army Corps of Engineers. The Navy manages water-based projects and the Air Force manages atmospheric projects (my sister worked for the Air Force as an atmospheric chemist.) NASA handles space.

    My gut feeling is that there wasn’t enough to justify it, but I don’t honestly know. I highly doubt Trump was in any way making some sort of executive decision based upon examining the personnel needs of the military’s presence in space, looking at the current command structure of the Air Force to see if they were being overtaxed, and deciding that it was time. AFSPC was spread out over multiple bases. Vandenberg was the one everybody knows, but AFSPC was headquartered at Peterson in Colorado with space and missile systems being managed in Los Angeles. Nellis would certainly be involved (though probably highly classified) and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was presence at Offutt. AFSPC wasn’t just the one base.

    But that wasn’t Trump’s justification. It was all a political stunt to satisfy his inner child to have Buck Rogers and PEW! PEW!

    My only real point was that there is a need for us to manage our presence in space, that that presence in space includes military functions, those military functions might include things that we could loosely call “piracy,” and let us not let the fools who are trying to use romanticized, space opera imagery of space to bolster their egos blind us to that underlying reality.

  45. wzrd1 says

    @rrhain, as a veteran of US military forces and quite well understanding interoperation, yeah, no.
    The Space Force is a Space Farce currently and likely for decades. It can’t launch anything other than PowerPoint vengeance and overall is only good at tracking space crap.
    We’ll discuss it further when it can independently operate, as every other branch of service can do now.
    Given that currently, they can only launch GPS birds by contract and barely manage to get astronauts to the ISS by another contract.
    We didn’t respond to Pearl Harbor by frigging contract.