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1 big thing: Here comes the Space Force

Trump shows his signature on the Space Policy Directive-4. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The Space Force, once an applause line, is now a reality.

  • President Trump signed a directive this afternoon starting the process for creating a U.S. Space Force within the Air Force, but with its own representative on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, similar to how the Marines are within the Navy.
  • The Defense Department will now draft legislation, as these efforts require congressional approval and funding.
  • Flashback: The Air Force spent five years as part of the Army before becoming its own separate branch in 1947.

Why it matters: This takes what was a rally slogan and T-shirt and moves it toward becoming a real national security entity aimed at blunting the rising power of China in particular, Axios Science editor Andrew Freedman emails.

  • Notably, NASA, as a civilian space agency, will be left out of the new entity. But how NASA intersects with a Space Force will help determine the extent to which space exploration is still viewed as a largely peaceful endeavor.

Between the lines: A Space Force will be a participant in the next space races, public and private:

  • Public: "China ... landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon [in January], a historic first. This month, an Israeli spacecraft destined for the moon is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. If successful, it would make Israel the fourth country ... to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface, " WashPost reports.
  • Private: Elon Musk has SpaceX, Richard Branson has Virgin Galactic, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has Stratolaunch and Jeff Bezos has Blue Origin, Axios' Dan Primack noted late last year.

Go deeper: I recommend revisiting our Space Race deep dive

Bonus: Pics du jour
Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Above: Commuters interact with an elephant as he rests in a public road ahead of the annual Perahera festival of the historic Gangaramaya Temple in Sri Lanka.

Below: A plane flies in front of the largest Supermoon of 2019 in London.

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
2. What you missed
  1. An organization representing hundreds of thousands of Catholic nuns and priests worldwide said today they made "errors in judgment" in their handling of child sexual abuse cases. Go deeper.
  2. House Democrats plan to investigate claims from "multiple whistleblowers" that some Trump administration appointees proposed selling nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over the objections of top national security officials. Go deeper.
  3. Bernie Sanders' newly launched presidential campaign estimated he raised $1.2 million from 42,000 donors in the first 3.5 hours after his official announcement this morning.
  4. West Virginia public school teachers went on strike today — nearly one year after their original nine-day action inspired educators across the U.S. to launch picket lines, the Associated Press reports.
3. 1 "next" thing

Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage

Ariana Grande has reached a level not seen since the Beatles stormed America in the 1960s.

  • “Grande becomes the first artist to hold the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart simultaneously since The Beatles in 1964, as her new album 'Thank U, Next' launches at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums tally,” Billboard reports.
  • “Grande’s ‘7 Rings’ rules the Hot 100 (dated Feb. 23) for a fourth week, while ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’ debuts at No. 2 and former seven-week leader ‘Thank U, Next’ rebounds from No. 7 to No. 3. All three songs are from the Thank U, Next album, released on Republic Records.”