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Ted Cruz warns of space pirates, says Space Force is the answer

Even Elon Musk had a reaction to the senator's justification for a US Space Force.

Yes, Ron Perlman was in Ice Pirates.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

I saw the 1984 sci-fi movie Ice Pirates. I'm wondering if US senator Ted Cruz watched it, too. It wasn't a documentary.

Cruz, a Republican from Texas, alluded to space pirates in opening remarks on Tuesday for a hearing on "The Emerging Space Environment: Operational, Technical, and Policy Challenges" before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space. 

Cruz referenced how the ancient Greeks and subsequent nations have called on naval forces to "protect water-borne travel and commerce from bad actors." 

"Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space," Cruz said. "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 Trump administration has been working to make Space Force a reality as its own branch of the US armed forces, despite a snarky reaction to the name from some corners of the internet.

You can't hint at space pirates and expect it to stay under the radar. Cruz's mention of pirates is actually about the potential for hostile forces to undermine US space assets, but it's hard not to imagine swashbuckling, yarr-ing raiders zipping about in orbit.

SpaceX's Elon Musk took notice of a tweet from SpaceNews writer Jeff Foust and shared a pirate-flag emoji on Twitter as a response.

Kevin Gill, a NASA software engineer and notable space-image processor, was right on the ball with a picture of a pirate ship sporting the SpaceX logo in orbit around Earth.

BuzzFeed News editor Hayes Brown knows what we're all thinking: "space pirates" sounds cool as hell.

I vote for getting some eye patches, some robot parrots and some spaceships together so we can go out and plunder satellites and board the ISS. I know this isn't what Cruz had in mind, but we'll have a rip-roaring good time until Space Force gets us.