Members of the United States Space Force will officially be called “Guardians”, according to an announcement Vice President Mike Pence made at an event celebrating the military branch’s one year anniversary.
The organization traces the name “Guardians” back to an old Air Force Space Command motto from 1983, “Guardians of the High Frontier,” according to a short post on the US Space Force website. While a distinct entity, Space Force is part of the Air Force per its establishment with the National Defense Authorization Act.
As it exists today, Space Force is mostly a rebrand of Air Force Space Command, but with the authority to make decisions independent from the Air Force. Space Force personnel also mostly come from the Air Force, but there’s been notable transfers — like astronaut Mike Hopkins — who’ve joined from other government organizations. Unlike Hopkins’ former employer NASA, Space Force is less concerned with exploring space, than it is controlling it and protecting American assets like satellites.
Choosing “Guardians” as an official name comes with some unavoidable (and maybe intended) pop culture associations. There’s Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, which introduced Marvel film fans to the “cosmic” side of the Marvel universe. And from the world of video games, Guardians also show up again in Destiny 2 as undead warriors charged with defending the Last City on Earth from alien enemies.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Space Force appeared to be cribbing from pop culture, either. When the organization revealed the official logo, many pointed out its similarities to the Starfleet emblem used in the television show Star Trek. The US Space Force later attempted to clarify that it was inspired by older Air Force Space Command logos rather than the hit series.
Whatever the source of the name, you can count on Space Force being a lot more mundane than any of the pop culture we associate with it. It may be a bit of a branding exercise to satisfy the President, but the Biden administration appears to have no plans to change course. With Space Force and recent work to return to the moon, the US is focusing even more on space heading into the next decade.