American troops are currently serving in 177 countries around the world. But if some members of Congress get their way, US forces may soon be fighting in a brave new frontier: space.
A House Armed Services Committee proposal that's making its way to the Senate calls for taking the Air Force's current space missions and giving them to a brand-new branch of the US armed forces whose sole mission would be to focus on space.
More from Vox:
5 ways the North Korea situation could spiral out of control
If Republicans reach a health care deal, it must survive this obscure Senate rule
If the Senate health-care bill passes, many will lose coverage. But these workers could lose their jobs.
Welcome to the Space Corps.
Currently, the Air Force helps with spacelift operations, command and control of satellites, and more. The Space Corps would absorb these missions. It would be its own military service that would form part of the Department of the Air Force, similar to the way the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy.
It would also elevate space's prominence in America's military missions. There would be a new four-star chief of staff of the Space Corps who would become the Joint Chiefs of Staff's eighth member.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the Space Corps' main champion, thinks creating the new branch is necessary for US national security, particularly because other countries are catching up to America's power in space. "Russia and China have become near peers," Rogers told NPR. "They're close to surpassing us. What we're proposing would change that."
There's just one problem: The Air Force is adamantly against it. "The Pentagon is complicated enough," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters on June 21. "This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart."
So it's unclear whether the Space Corps will actually happen. But now that Congress is officially asking for it, it's worth going through why the proposal exists in the first place.
Because as any self-respecting science fiction fan knows all too well, space is a dangerous place.