United States Institute of Peace
Washington, D.C.

1:38 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Senator Kelly.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

Please have a seat.

Senator, I just have to say about you — the President feels this way, our nation feels this way: You have dedicated yourself to our nation with such courage, such commitment, and such patriotism.  And I thank you for the introduction and your life of service.  Thank you. 

And to everyone, good afternoon.  Good afternoon.  I want to, first, thank the United States Institute of Peace for hosting us today.

And thank you to everyone for joining this inaugural meeting of our National Space Council.

This council has the important responsibility to synchronize our nation’s civil, commercial, and national security space activities.

And gathered here is the largest and most expansive Space Council in our nation’s history.

Today, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to renew this council and to add five new members.  And they are here today: the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Education, and our National Climate Advisor.

The broad membership of this council reflects our broad priorities as an administration. 

And also here today are members of Congress from both chambers, as well as Admiral Jim Ellis, who serves as chair of the Users’ Advisory Group.

And I thank all of you for your participation and your leadership.  And welcome to all.

Astronauts have said that seeing Earth from space for the first time — like Senator Kelly described — is awe-inspiring and clarifying.  In that moment, it becomes abundantly clear how precious our Earth — how precious our Earth is and how connected we all who occupy space on this Earth — how connected we are.

The vision, they say, is so powerful that it produces an effect which has actually been given a name: the “overview effect.”

One astronaut from the Apollo 8 mission explained: While the crew’s initial focus was on the moon, in the end, it was equally important to look back at Earth.

Today, our nation and our world is more active in space
than ever before, with satellites in orbit that provide services and security to people here on Earth; with a thriving commercial enterprise; with the International Space Station, among the brightest objects in our sky; and with the Artemis Program, which is helping our nation achieve new heights.

And while our exploration of space takes us up to the moon, to Mars, to the edge of our Solar System, like the Apollo 8 crew, I believe we have a responsibility to also look to our home planet.

In this new era, we must see all the ways in which space can benefit Earth.  We must see all the ways in which space can benefit the people of our nation and of all of humanity.

This perspective is central to our work as a council.  Because while exploration of space defined the 20th century, the opportunity of space must guide our work in the 21st. 

And that is why the first order of business today is to release our Space Priorities Framework.  Our priorities, as I mentioned, are broad, as is our Framework.

Our Framework covers many areas in which space activity is a source for American leadership and strength, and American innovation and opportunity.

At this meeting this afternoon, we will focus on three particular areas within our Framework.  And the three areas, I believe, demonstrate our administration’s vision and our mission. 

Three areas in which I believe we will make significant progress: one, building our STEM workforce; two, addressing the climate crisis; three, promoting rules and norms that govern space.

So, first, on STEM.  I have visited several college campuses over the years, including, this year, I visited Hampton University, an HBCU in Virginia.  Hampton University hosts a NASA mission: the AIM satellite mission.

The students there are scientists, and they are working with scientists to track atmospheric changes.  And I’ll tell you something about these students: They are both inspired and inspiring.

And so, we must ensure that more of our nation’s students have access to these important opportunities.  We must encourage more of our students to pursue STEM careers. 

The truth is: The United States used to lead — I said, past tense — used to lead the world on innovation.  But right now, our nation is falling behind as others develop their STEM workforce.

To compete in the 21st century, to keep our nation secure
in the 21st century, our nation must invest in more scientists, more engineers, more programmers.  We must — it is an imperative — build a strong STEM workforce.

And I have seen with my own eyes how space can help us reach that goal.  From the elementary school student with a telescope to the college student analyzing satellite data, to the trades apprentice who is learning skills to help build rockets.

So, today, as a council, we will discuss how we can strengthen space policy and how we can partner with union leaders and business leaders and educators to build the workforce that will solve the challenges of our time.

And that brings me to our second area of focus today: the challenge of the climate crisis. 

The AIM satellite mission at Hampton University is one of many that is measuring the impact of the climate crisis.

I was recently at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.  And I was honored to be the first to view images
from the satellite that has been named “Landsat 9.” 

These are but two examples of the fleet of satellites and sensors we have as a nation that provide citizens and scientists with the data they need to mitigate and adapt to the impact of the climate crisis.

Just think: These satellites provide real-time images of the landscape of our nation.  As natural disasters increase in frequency and ferocity around our country, these images are being used by first responders.  These images are being used
by farmers to assess their crops as drought and heat threatens their livelihood, threatens our ability to produce food as a nation; and by scientists who are working to combat the climate crisis head on.

Today, this council will commit to make this data more accessible to more people.  And we will expand our global partnerships to increase the data we are able to collect.

Last month, I announced that the United States will join the Space Climate Observatory.  That’s an international initiative — it’s being led by France — to support climate action to local communities. 

The work of our council will build on these types of partnerships. 

Which leads then to the third focus of today — probably one of the most important in terms of our nation’s leadership around the world.  And that is how our nation can lead in our world to establish, to expand, and to accelerate the rules and the norms that govern space.

Over the past weeks and months, I have spoken with heads of states and governments about our priorities in space — leaders of France, India, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, among oth

In these conversations, the opportunity of space has been clear, as has the risk.  Without clear norms for the responsible use of space, we stand the real risk of threats to our national and global security.

Just last month, we saw what can happen.  Russia launched an anti-satellite missile to destroy one of its satellites.  By blasting debris across space, this irresponsible act endangered the satellites of other nations, as well as astronauts in the International Space Station.

As activity in space grows, we must reaffirm, yes, the rights of all nations and we must demand responsibility from all space-faring nations.

We must establish and expand rules and norms on safety and security, on transparency and cooperation to include military, commercial, and civil space activity.

As but one example, the United States has led the development of the Artemis Accords to establish clear norms for civil space exploration.  Thirteen nations have signed on so far.

From here, we must work to expand the number of signatories on the Artemis Accords.

In my recent meetings with the presidents of France and Mexico, both nations have indicated their intention to join.

So, promoting rules and norms, addressing the climate crisis, building on our STEM workforce — these are the three areas of priority for this council that will guide our work today.  And there are many more that this council will address in the days and the weeks and the months ahead.

So, keeping that in mind, I will conclude with this: The astronauts who have returned home from space — they describe with wonder a new awareness of not only what it is out there, but what’s right here.

 Looking at Earth from hundreds of thousands of miles away, they see what I know we all know: Our planet is fragile, our planet is beautiful, and it is filled with billions of people who are at once different and the same.

From space, all of humanity is one.  And through our work in space, we have an opportunity to benefit not only the American people but all of humanity.

Our framework is, therefore, comprehensive.  Our agenda — yes, our agenda is ambitious.

But as an astronaut once told me about the advice he received ahead of his first spacewalk — he was told, “Simple.  Just focus on what’s right in front of you, and from there, widen your view.”

That, my friends, is how we will move forward: focused on what is in front of us, and widening our view and expanding our work as we go forward.

So, again, I thank you all for being here.  And let’s now get into our agenda.  Thank you, all.  (Applause.)

                              END                   1:52 P.M. EST

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