The U.S. Space Force, America’s newest military branch, made headlines on Friday with the news that its members will henceforth be known as “Guardians.”
The name, whose selection caps off a process that lasted a year, officially owes its existence to an Air Force motto from 1983: “Guardians of the High Frontier.” (The Space Force is technically a part of the USAF.) But unofficially, nerds for Marvel Comics and the video game Destiny alike see a somewhat different connection.
On the Marvel front, the space-defending “Guardians” is quickly, obviously followed in fans’ minds by “of the Galaxy.” The cosmic super-team has been a formidable pop culture presence ever since the 2014 Marvel movie from director James Gunn starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradly Cooper, and Vin Diesel.
Sure, why not? It’s an easy leap here. But the “Guardians” name also has a strong tie to Bungie’s Destiny games, which are set in a future where humanity, having spread out across the solar system, faces a range of alien threats. The soldiers tasked with defending the planet and its people are, in fact, called Guardians.
This isn’t the first time there’s been a link between Destiny and IRL space news. Bungie even partnered up once with a NASA-connected research team to bake a little Easter egg into the game’s moonscape. So Destiny fans and Bungie developers alike were thrilled by the unexpected Space Force connection, intended or not.
(That’s Bungie’s CEO, btw.)
The U.S. Space Force was formally established in Dec. 2019 with the signing of that year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which (among other things) sets the annual budget for the U.S. armed forces. It’s been perceived as something of a joke, especially on social media, in part because of the Trump administration’s unerring commitment to making terrible choices and in part because it summons up mental images of U.S. soldiers piloting X-Wing Fighters and taking on the Borg.
From the new military branch’s logo proposal process to the unveiling of its uniforms, social media has been quick with the Space Force jokes every time there’s a new development. (The finalized logo does undeniably harken back to Star Trek.) The Guardians news is one more example of the same thing.
In truth, though, the U.S. military is no stranger to operating outside of Earth’s atmosphere, even predating the formal creation of the Space Force. While there’s plenty to be said about the wisdom of hyping nomenclature news while thousands of Americans are dying every day in the midst of a global pandemic, there are good reasons for defending U.S. interests in orbit. This should be especially clear just a week after we learned of Russia’s far-reaching hack of U.S. government systems.
There are also plenty of reasons to look at anything established by the Trump administration with intense skepticism. It’s been a long year, though. If people want to draw some nerdy joy from a U.S. military branch inadvertently referencing comic books and video games, let them have their fun.