The establishment of the U.S. Space Force as America’s newest military branch didn’t come without its detractors in the media. Some laughed off the idea as a science fiction fantasy, despite both Russia and China already having operational space-specific branches of their own military forces. The truth is, orbital defense is seen as essential by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, but fierce (and worthwhile) debate continues to rage about whether establishing a new force was the most cost-effective way to address America’s orbital concerns.
But while the real-life Space Force is no laughing matter, Netflix’s spin on the concept, starring Steve Carell (The Office) alongside Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), and Lisa Kudrow (Friends), looks like it might just be the laugh riot America needs to get back on its game once our COVID-19 fears are hopefully easing up.
According to Netflix, the new show is a workplace comedy first, and a show about space second. That means fans of shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation will probably feel right at home with this new show, regardless of whether it takes place in Pennsylvania or low-earth orbit.
The premise of Space Force (the show, not the branch) seems pretty believable, based on Netflix’s summary. Carell will play Air Force four-star general Mark R. Naird, a decorated pilot with aspirations of running the Air Force before being tasked by the president to head up the newly formed space branch. Naird (Carell) then uproots his family to move to Colorado, where his new command is located, and he and his team set about achieving their goal of getting back to the moon and, of course, securing “total space dominance.”
The real Space Force, of course, doesn’t outline its own goals in such a dramatic way. While getting back to the moon is among NASA’s initiatives, the Space Force is more concerned about America’s defenses right here on our own planet. Much of the Space Force’s responsibilities actually revolve around tracking objects in the sky, from foreign satellites to space junk, and finding ways to mitigate risks to America’s orbital infrastructure while simultaneously looking for ways to harden it against attack.
America’s military apparatus is dependent on satellites for everything ranging from communications to navigation to early warnings about missile launches, but many of those satellites were launched before America had any concerns about being able to defend these assets against foreign nations.
Today, Russia and China are fielding both earth-based anti-satellite weapons and orbital platforms that could be used to interfere with or even de-orbit enemy satellites (by nudging or dragging them into a degrading orbit that will lead to them burning up on reentry).
As former Air Force secretary Heather Wilson put it, “We built a glass house before the invention of stones.”
This new show may not help on that front, but it might just be exactly what we need to lean back and chuckle a bit at the end of May — and I think it’s safe to say we could all use a bit of that right now.
Space Force premieres on Netflix on May 29.