NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins became the first-ever U.S. Space Force officer assigned as an astronaut when he voluntarily transferred from the U.S. Air Force while in orbit on the International Space Station, adding to a long history of military officers working at NASA in a civilian capacity. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard joined Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Chief of Space Operations General Jay Raymond from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for the ceremony.
“This unique venue for Mike’s transfer ceremony today highlights the decades-long partnership between the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” Bridenstine said. “Although our missions remain distinct and different, our partnership has successfully allowed our nation to boldly explore the vast expanses of space and expand humanity’s scientific knowledge. NASA is proud to have service members from all branches of the military serving as civilian astronauts for over 60 years.”
The ceremony, which coincided with the Space Force one-year anniversary on Dec. 20, also served as an opportunity to highlight the partnership between NASA and the U.S. Space Force in the space domain.
“We are different organizations but we operate in the same domain,” said Raymond. “That partnership provides us great strength. We are making history every single day, and today is nothing short of that.
“The military sends its best people to the NASA astronaut program,” Raymond added. “And Hopkins, you are one of the nation’s best. We are beyond excited to make you the first astronaut in our Space Force, and to welcome your wife Julie, and your sons, Ryan and Lucas, to our Space Force family. Today, you are beginning a new journey with the nation’s newest service.”
NASA is a civilian space agency created to benefit humanity through space exploration, scientific discovery and expand knowledge through peaceful international cooperation. Since the beginning of NASA’s space exploration missions, men and women of the military such as Hopkins have served as civilians at NASA. While NASA is independent from the military, all branches of the U.S. military have provided talent – test pilots, engineers, doctors, and more – to the astronaut corps since NASA’s first astronauts were announced in 1959. The U.S. Space Force, as the newest military service, will also contribute to this legacy of supporting NASA’s human exploration of space.
NASA as a civilian agency and Space Force as a branch of the military operate in the same domain of space, supporting America’s national interests. NASA focuses on exploration, research and development for education, innovation, economic vitality, and stewardship of Earth. Space Force delivers the critical space capabilities needed to protect and defend America‘s interests in space, as well as access to and freedom to maneuver in space. Space Force will be celebrating its first birthday on Dec. 20.
Hopkins was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in January 1992, and was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 2009. He launched from Florida on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Nov. 15 as a member of NASA’s Crew-1 mission, and is currently working and living aboard the space station as a flight engineer for Expedition 64 until spring. For more than 20 years, astronauts have had a continuous presence aboard the orbiting laboratory, helping to further knowledge of space and Earth, improve our understanding of life, and enable leaps in commercial technology and medicine. The Department of Defense is an important partner in that endeavor and will continue to be so for many more years.