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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

White House removes Trump-appointed scientist from overseeing climate report

U.S. President Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has removed Trump-appointed atmospheric scientist Betsy Weatherhead from her role overseeing the government's "definitive report on the effects of climate change," the Washington Post first reported Monday.

Why it matters: While Weatherhead has not been fired — merely reassigned to the U.S. Geological Survey — the move represents an effort by the Biden administration to remove Trump-era appointees from scientific roles, per CNN.

Dave Lawler, author of World
42 mins ago - World

Castro era officially ends in Cuba

Diaz-Canel (L) with Raul Castro in 2018. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa/Getty Images

The Castro era ended in Cuba on Monday after six decades, with Raúl Castro handing over the reigns of a party founded in 1965 by his brother Fidel.

Why it matters: Miguel Díaz-Canel, 60, now assumes the challenge of maintaining Communist rule while grappling with growing discontent over Cuba's economic stagnation.

Dave Lawler, author of World
51 mins ago - World

Global coronavirus cases hit new high as India's surge continues

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

More COVID-19 cases are now being recorded globally each day than ever before in the pandemic, surpassing the previous global peak in early January.

The big picture: At that time, the U.S. and Europe were driving the surge. This time, the biggest source of new cases is India.