REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS DURING A VISIT TO NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER
Space Environment Simulator Chamber, Building 10
Goddard Space Flight Center
5:27 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Please have a seat. Good afternoon.
Bill Nelson, it is so wonderful to share a stage with you. We served together in the United States Senate. And I know you have very fond memories of your years as a leader in the United States Senate, but I think your first love, aside from Grace, has always been space. So, it is so good to be with you.
And, you know, the Administrator is right. I’m glad that you talked about bills that are before Congress. The American people have waited long enough, and we need to get this done. So, thank you for your comments.
It is wonderful to be here at NASA. I was just looking out the window, almost with my nose pressed against the window, as we were driving in. To be able to arrive at this storied place where so much of the ingenuity, the innovation, the brilliance, the skill of scientists, of engineers, of the people who you are, who make up the team at NASA where this work is done, it really is my privilege to be with you all today and to personally thank you for the work you do every day. It inspires your country. It inspires our country.
Chris Van Hollen — Senator Van Hollen and I were classmates when we entered the United States Senate together, and I have been — seen him firsthand in the halls of the United States Senate when the cameras are on and when the cameras are off. And he’s always the same person — fighting for Maryland, fighting for what’s right, and doing it always in a way that is about elevating a discussion to require people to focus on what really impacts people in their lives every day. Senator Van Hollen, I want to thank you for your leadership every day. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
And I know our friend, Ben Cardin, was going to be here, as well as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. And I — they — unfortunately, Senator Cardin had to get on his way because he’s going to go and represent the United States at COP26, and so he’s on his way. And then, of course, Majority Leader Hoyer is doing the work that Bill Nelson is talking about, working hard at Capitol Hill. But I do want to thank them for their leadership.
Thank you, also, to the leaders of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Thank you to the United States Geological Survey. And, again, thank you to all of you at NASA. And, in particular, I want to thank you all for what you do to keep elevating the discourse and the imagination and the spirit of not only what can be done and who does that work here in the United States, but you really do inspire people all over the world.
And there are many ways in which we can talk about the work that we do in space. You all know that. But I’m going to talk today about the opportunity of space — the opportunity of space.
So, it was 60 years ago that Alan Shepard became the first American to travel into space. He was up there for only 15 minutes, but the world waited with bated breath until his safe return.
Alan Shepard’s short flight broke barriers literally and figuratively, as have so many of you. That flight gave President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson the confidence to set our energy and our resources toward putting an American on the moon.
In the decades since, 12 Americans have walked on the moon, and even more have orbited the Earth. In the decades since, our nation has launched space stations and satellites, sent rovers to Mars, and witnessed the birth of new stars.
With the technology we have developed to explore space, from camera phones to CT scans, we have improved life on Earth. With the perspective we have gained from space, we have reminded many, many folks — and we have been reminded — of how precious our Earth really is and how delicate it is and how fragile it is.
But while the exploration of space defined the 20th century, I believe that the opportunity of space will define the 21st century.
Today, our nation is more active in space than ever before, and there are more ways than ever before that space can benefit humanity.
I believe it is incumbent on all of us, then, to seize all the ways in which space can help us solve our biggest challenges, including that of the climate crisis.
The world leaders who gathered at COP26 this week were very clear. They were not ambiguous. They didn’t skirt around the issue. They were clear and they were decisive and they were declarative: Climate change is an existential threat, and we must take immediate action to address it.
As our nation works to meet our climate commitments, we know that our actions cannot be limited to only what we can do on Earth.
Right at this minute, we are monitoring emissions and measuring the impact of climate change from space.
We have a fleet of satellites and sensors providing citizens and scientists with the data that they — that you need to mitigate the impact and to adapt to the impact.
Take Landsat 9, which was assembled, of course, here at Goddard and launched into space last September. As we just saw, Landsat 9 can provide real-time images of our nation’s landscape.
As natural disasters are increasing in frequency and ferocity due to climate change, these images can be used by first responders to help save lives.
These images can be used by farmers to assess their crops as drought and heat threaten their yield.
These images can be used by scientists who are working to combat climate change head on.
And another satellite within our fleet is at a university — a local university that I recently visited — Hampton University, an HBCU in Virginia.
When I was on that campus, I saw the AIM satellite mission. Students there were working with scientists to understand the connections between climate change and atmospheric changes.
So, here’s the bottom line: I truly believe space activity is climate action. Space activity is education. Space activity is also economic growth. It is also innovation and inspiration. And it is about our security and our strength.
So, as chair of the National Space Council, I will convene leaders from across our administration for an inaugural Council meeting on December 1st. I’m really looking forward to that.
And at that meeting, we will outline a comprehensive framework for our nation’s space priorities — from our civilian efforts, like those we have seen today; to our military and national security efforts; to STEM education; and the emerging space economy.
And what is abundantly clear is that when it comes to our space activity, there is limitless potential.
When Alan Shepard launched into space 60 years ago, he named his space capsule the Freedom 7 to honor NASA’s first group of seven astronauts.
Freedom — freedom is not just about the feeling of flying through space at 5,000 miles per hour; freedom is about opportunity.
So, as we go forth from here, let us continue to seize the opportunity of space.
And again, I thank you all for the work you do each and every day. The work you are doing will impact people around our globe, around this beautiful, precious planet we call Earth. And I cannot thank you enough.
Have a good evening. Thank you all.
END 5:38 P.M. EDT