The next step in putting a US military branch in outer space is underway. In an executive order, President Trump directs the Pentagon to establish a command overseeing all military activities in this new frontier.
Vice President Mike Pence announced the nation's groundbreaking command Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
"A new era of American national security in space begins today," Pence told the assembled audience.
The vice president also took the opportunity to thank all of the men and women who serve in America's military. Some may be called upon to serve and protect the country in outer space.
"So thank you for your service to the country for all of you who have been called to serve in our armed forces," he said. With your unwavering commitment, with the courage of our men and women in uniform, with the continued support of the American people, with the vision and leadership of our commander-in-chief, and with God's help, I know we will give America the defense she needs here on Earth and in the outer reaches of space."
Pence also reminded those in attendance that outer space is not a new frontier to Americans, but a familiar one.
"Now, to be clear, the Space Force will not be built from scratch because the men and the women who run and protect our nation's space programs today are already the best in the world. And since the dawn of the Space Age, America has remained the best in space," he said.
The announcement comes nearly 50 years after the Apollo 8 astronauts became the first humans to orbit the moon and return to earth.
"We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you," said Lunar Module Pilot Bill Anders.
As Anders, Mission Commander Frank Borman, and Module Pilot Jim Lovell rounded the moon for the ninth time on Christmas Eve 1968, they took turns reading passages from the Bible's first book of Genesis in a live television broadcast.
"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light, and there was light," Anders read.
But today, the race for space is much different. The White House says adversaries like Russia and China are transforming it into a war-fighting domain.
In his remarks, Pence said the United States will not shrink from this challenge.
"Under President Trump's leadership, we will meet it head on to defend our nation and build a peaceful future here on Earth and in space," he said.
"America will always seek peace in space as on the Earth. But history proves that peace only comes through strength. And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strong in the years ahead," the vice president noted.
NASA will not be a part of this initiative. The Air Force already oversees a small space command
Critics of this executive order argue it shows the military is already protecting American interests in space.
"The US Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military," Pence said.
As this 21st-century space race continues, the White House contends the need to stay ahead has never been more urgent.
The vice president says that will require one other thing -- faith in God and in each other.
"And as we embark, we do so with faith. Faith in all of you who have answered the call to serve in the uniform of the United States of America at such a time as this in the life of our nation. Faith to all the incredible civilian personnel who serve here in the Department of Defense with equal devotion to our nation," Pence said.
"And we do so with that other kind of faith as well. And just as generations of Americans have carried those who have taken to the skies in the defense of freedom borne upon their prayers, I want to assure all of you, who will be called to this enterprise, that you can be confident. You can be confident that you will go with the prayers of millions of Americans who will claim on your behalf, as generations have claimed before, those ancient words, that if you "rise on the wings of the dawn, if you settle on the far side of the sea," even if you go up to the heavens, "even there His hand will guide you, His right hand will hold you fast." And He will hold fast this great nation in the great beyond," he continued.
Listen to the Apollo 8 crew as they read from the book of Genesis on Dec. 24, 1968.