Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ Makes Us Wonder: Can Anyone Join the U.S. Space Force?

The Netflix show Space Force isn’t exactly a documentary. The Steve Carell-led comedy series leans toward mocking the core idea of the U.S. Space Force. Initially something of a send-up of Donald Trump-era America, season 2 premiered just last month in a very different world.

The Office showrunner Greg Daniels sticks to highlighting the concept’s absurdity, even with the first season’s top target of satire no longer in the White House. But it does make you wonder: What is the real Space Force like? Is it truly a sixth branch of the U.S. military? Can anyone sign up for it?

Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ pokes fun at the very idea of the latest real-life U.S. military branch

Space Force has a star-studded cast, blending Daniels’ repertoire of stars like Carell and Ben Schwartz with powerhouse actors like John Malkovich, as IMDb reports. As with The Office, the series goes for a workplace comedy angle. Given it started development not long after the real-life Space Force materialized, the show doesn’t quite reflect what the real military branch is like.

Carell plays Air Force Lieutenant General Mark Naird, who’s spent his life developing a career he expects will lead him to become a four-star Air Force General. Instead, his superiors assign him to the Space Force. Naird receives little direction except a presidential mandate to “get boots on the moon by 2024.”

This is an instant comedic premise, given that NASA has already accomplished this. Is there any reason to do it again, except with guns? Naird is left leading a brand-new military branch with a borderline aimless purpose. The reframing of NASA’s scientific mission into a military endeavor is the perfect grist for Daniels’ dry comedic style.

What is the real Space Force like?

The United States Space Force, or USSF, continues to establish itself as the latest expansion of the U.S. military. People widely mocked the idea at first, although their stated mission, via the Space Force’s official website, does have some sense to it. The idea is that the earthbound aspects of the military should focus on the earth itself, while private and strategic assets such as satellites require special attention.

Still, the organization’s redundancy is not a reputation it’s managed to shake. Nearly all Space Force members are pulled from the U.S. Air Force, who have long handled the same tasks the USSF is now mandated for. Air Force Magazine reports that recruitment for new members outside of the Air Force is being promoted, but numbers are not particularly high.

The Space Force pulled 16,000 members directly from the Air Force. Most approved recruits come in the form of transfers from other military branches like the Marines. But each wave is fairly small, ranging from about 400-500 people across an entire fiscal year. Either way, the service will consider open applications, with submissions accepted on the USSF website. 

Real-life Space Force situations are often as funny as a sitcom

U.S. Air Force Academy graduates are greeted by U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond, who shakes their hands
U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond greets Air Force Academy graduates in 2021 | Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Space Force only resembles the real USSF in the loosest of terms. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t ample comedic material as this new military branch tries to establish its reason for being. Some people find humor on the Space Force’s Twitter account.

From the start, there was a hint of goofiness surrounding the project. The initial announcement of servicemen and women being referred to as “Guardians” was an instant target for mockery. There’s also the absurd fact that the Netflix series Space Force actually beat the U.S. government to the punch regarding securing the copyright to the name.

Then there’s the logo, with some comparing it to Star Trek‘s Starfleet badges. The full uniforms project military power with familiar brown and green camouflage patterns — not exactly helpful garb in the dark reaches of foliage-free outer space.

Eventually, the USSF will likely prove itself as a useful aspect of the overall U.S. military apparatus. But currently, the events of Netflix’s comedy series Space Force echo reality more than those involved with the real deal might care for.

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