US Senator Ted Cruz has been ridiculed for arguing that the US military needs a Space Force branch to defend against pirates.
"Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space," the Texas Republican said during a hearing in Washington this week.
After "Space Pirates" began trending on Twitter, Mr Cruz hit back at critics.
President Donald Trump has called for the establishment of a sixth branch of the US military, named the Space Force.
During a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space on Tuesday, Mr Cruz said: "Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognised the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors.
"Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space.
"In this same way, I believe we too must now recognise the necessity of a Space Force. To defend the nation, and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration."
After he was mocked online about galactic buccaneers, he took to Twitter to swipe at "snarky leftists making fun of my comments".
Mr Cruz also argued that nations such as China "have already developed & tested weapons to destroy satellites".
"May Space Pirates devour your liver," he tweeted to one sceptical MSNBC journalist.
Sure, a frigate w/ skull & crossbones in space is unlikely anytime soon, but what MSNBC conveniently omits is the threat of piracy, espionage & violence from rogue & rival NATIONS is very real. Indeed, China has already developed & tested weapons to destroy satellites in space. https://t.co/fVUZUeWVLj— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 15, 2019
Members of the scientific community joined politicians and pundits to tease Mr Cruz.
Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX and Tesla, tweeted a pirate flag in response.
Ted Cruz argues that Space Force is necessary because... wait for it... space pirates. Leave it to Cruz to take a dumb Trump idea and make it sound even dumber. pic.twitter.com/xjjItA3EV3— Adam Best (@adamcbest) May 15, 2019
Prominent Republican pollster Frank Luntz tweeted: "You laugh now, but wait till it's the year 2350 and you realize Ted Cruz was right."
Writing for left-leaning Shareblue, Oliver Willis noted: "In the entire history of human spaceflight, there has never been a space pirate attack."
Kevin Gill, a Nasa software engineer, posted a Photoshopped image of a piratical schooner orbiting Earth.
Found a pic of the leader of the space pirates, maybe you can add it to the moment pic.twitter.com/Cm5T0d8GyK— Nephareus (@Nephareus) May 16, 2019
When I saw that “Space Pirates” were trending because of Ted Cruz, I just assumed they were here to take him back to his home planet.— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) May 16, 2019
Ted Cruz warning about “Space Pirates” pic.twitter.com/utj1pxlTDT— Zac Farrell (@ZACRFARRELL) May 16, 2019
These are the people Ted cruz is going to hire to defend us from space pirates 🏴☠️ pic.twitter.com/kjSB9Tjt69— fabian palomo (@fabianpalomo15) May 16, 2019