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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.

Driving the news: 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 Join 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: Axios' special report on the Space Race

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”