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Mike Hopkins aboard the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins was sworn in as the newest member of the U.S. Space Force Friday from his post onboard the International Space Station.

Why it matters: Hopkins is the first NASA astronaut to serve in the Space Force.

  • "Today, you will be the first... Space Force astronaut, that will be living space," General John Raymond, the Space Force's Chief of Space Operations said to Hopkins during the swearing in.

The big picture: NASA and the U.S. military have had a close relationship since the earliest days of the space agency.

  • Some of the first astronauts were test pilots from the military, and today, the majority of astronauts that have served NASA were military service members.
  • "The very first astronaut was Alan Shepard from the Navy and the first airman in space was Gus Grissom. The first marine in space was John Glenn, and the first army officer... in space astronaut was Robert Stewart," Raymond said.

Between the lines: When the announcement of Hopkins' swearing in was made earlier this year, some space watchers questioned whether it would muddy the waters with the public's understanding of what the Space Force does.

  • The point of the Space Force is not necessarily to send people to space but to protect essential hardware — like spy and GPS satellites — from potential bad actors.
  • "The skill sets that you need to be an astronaut is totally different than the skill set you need to be a space operator in the Space Force," Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Axios in November.
  • Hopkins' swearing in aboard the space station also raised eyebrows. The space station is considered a tool of diplomacy and peace, not warfighting, and some experts are concerned the transfer aboard the station may send mixed signals to international partners.

Go deeper: The Space Force heads to space

Go deeper

Virgin Orbit launches satellites into space

The Virgin Orbit "Cosmic Girl," carrying a LauncherOne rocket under it's wing, takes off for the Launch Demo 2 mission from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, on Sunday/ Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket reached space and successfully deployed 10 payloads for NASA's Launch Services Program on Sunday, Richard Branson's company announced.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Miriam Kramer, Virgin Orbit is one of several private spaceflight companies aiming to capitalize on what they believe is a boom in demand for small spacecraft launches.

3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.