- Laurence Russell
NASA hosts National Space Council meeting, Vice President Kamala Harris chairs event
Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted the importance of climate, human spaceflight, and STEM education during the Biden-Harris Administration’s second National Space Council meeting Friday, held at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“For generations, with our allies and partners around the globe, America has led our world in the exploration and use of space,” said Harris. “Our leadership has been guided by a set of fundamental principles – cooperation, security, ambition, and public trust – which is the recognition, of course, that space can and must be protected for the benefit of all people. There is so much we still don't know and so much we still haven't done – space remains a place of undiscovered and unrealized opportunity. Our test and our responsibility is to work together to guide humanity forward into this new frontier and to make real the incredible potential of space for all people.”
For more than 50 years, NASA satellites have provided open-source and publicly available data on Earth’s land, water, temperature, weather, and climate. Improving access to key climate information is a priority for the agency. Building on his previous announcement, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released the first concept, and shared a new video for the Earth Information Center. The center will allow the public to see how the Earth is changing and guide decision-makers to mitigate, adapt, and respond to climate change.
“Just like we use mission control to monitor operations during spaceflight, we're embarking on this effort to monitor conditions here on our home planet, and it will be available to everyone in an easy-to-access format,” Nelson said.
Planning for the Earth Information Center is underway with the initial phase providing an interactive visual display of imagery and data from NASA and other government agencies. NASA Headquarters plans to house this initial interactive display with goals to expand in-person and virtual access over the next five years.
The Vice President also underscored the important research conducted on the International Space Station that will enable long-duration stays on the Moon and future human missions to Mars, in addition to benefits to life here on Earth.
“NASA uses the International Space Station to conduct critical research on the risks associated with future Mars missions – space radiation, isolation, and distance from Earth, just to name a few. It’s also a testbed to develop the technologies we’ll need for long duration stays on the Moon, where we will build an Artemis Base Camp on the surface and Gateway outpost in lunar orbit,” Nelson said. “Research on the space station demonstrates that the benefits of microgravity are not just for discovery. We also develop new technologies that improve life on Earth, like treatments for cancer.”
In conjunction with the meeting, NASA announced a new Space Grant K-12 Inclusiveness and Diversity in STEM (SG KIDS) opportunity that will award more than $4 million to institutions across the U.S. to help bring the excitement of NASA and STEM to traditionally underserved and underrepresented groups of middle and high school students. The announcement is a part of a broader set of commitments made by public, private, and philanthropic partners announced by the Vice President to help in the recruitment and development of the next generation of the space workforce.
SG KIDS also addresses the White House Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, as well as NASA Administrator Bill Nelson’s focus on providing authentic STEM opportunities to K-12 students.
While at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Vice President Harris toured the agency’s mission control with Nelson and Johnson Center Director Vanessa Wyche. The Vice President also spoke with NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Jessica Watkins, living and working aboard the International Space Station about how their research benefits life on Earth, supports long-duration space flight, and protects our planet.
The Vice President also received a tour of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF), where space flight crews and their support personnel receive world-class training on high-fidelity hardware for real-time mission support. The SVMF consists of space station, Orion, Commercial vehicle mockups, part-task trainers and rack interfaces, a Precision Air Bearing Floor, and a Partial Gravity Simulator.