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Air Force colonel to become first astronaut to join Space Force

NASA Astronaut Col. Michael S. Hopkins, a veteran of Expedition 37/38 aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2013-2014, is currently part of the team at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex., that is designing launch, docking and reentry procedures and communications for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, one of the commercial launch vehicles NASA will begin testing next year for use to transport six-astronaut crews to and from the ISS.

J.M. EDDINS JR./U.S. AIR FORCE

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Space Force will soon have its first astronaut when an Air Force colonel joins the newest military service in a ceremony planned during his upcoming space mission, a Space Force official said Monday.

Air Force astronaut Col. Michael “Hopper” Hopkins will transfer to Space Force once he is on board the International Space Station, said Col. Catie Hague, a spokeswoman for the chief of space operations.

Space Force is the newest branch of military and was officially established December 2019 under the Department of the Air Force. The branch has already started enlisting recruits and conducting transfer ceremonies for service members, including for the first deployed Space Force personnel in September, according to the service.

Hopkins is the commander for the upcoming SpaceX Crew-1 mission, which will be the first crew rotation mission to the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, according to NASA’s website. The mission is expected to launch Nov. 14 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Also on this mission is Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover, Jr., as the pilot, Shannon Walker as the mission specialist, and Soichi Noguchi with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who is also a mission specialist, according to NASA.

Hopkins, a native of Lebanon, Mo., was selected to be an astronaut in 2009 and has been aboard the space station previously, logging 166 days in space, according to his official NASA biography.

As of Monday, there are no astronauts in the Space Force, said a Space Force official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The transfer ceremony to Space Force on the space station would involve Hopkins reaffirming his oath of office, according to a FAQ page on the Space Force website.

Service members have joined NASA’s astronaut corps for more than 60 years, Hague said in the statement.
“Space Force, as the newest military service, is looking forward to contributing to this legacy,” she said.

Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations, is working with NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine on the ceremony aboard the space station “as a way to spotlight the decadeslong partnership between [the Defense Department] and NASA,” Hague said.

Kenney.Caitlin@stripes.com

@caitlinmkenney

 

Astronaut Mike Hopkins, June 15, 2020.
NORAH MORAN