Remarks by Vice President Harris On Supporting the Commercial Space Sector
Chabot Space and Science Center
1:51 P.M. PDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Please have a seat. How about Sala? Can we — (applause). We were talking before we came out, and I’m telling you: Our future is so bright when you look at just our young leaders, who — she’s just full of enthusiasm and excitement, and she’s committed and passionate. And — it just excites me. I think it excites us all. So, thank you all. Thank you.
I really have enjoyed this afternoon, being here at Chabot and with these extraordinary leaders — just investing in the best of who we are and the future of our country and our world and our universe. It really is — it really is emblematic of also — I will say this as a proud kid of the Bay Area — of who we are in this region of the world. Because we are always, I think, committed to seeing what is possible and then charting a course to get there. So, thank you all very much.
Today, we are joined by members of our administration and leaders of this great state, including our Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf. We are also joined, of course, by many of our private sector space partners. And I’m glad to see all of you.
You all are leaders who are driving our nation forward. And, again, that is what this is all about — moving forward together.
I also want to thank Chabot’s Science and Space Center for hosting us today and all of the work that you have done for so many years. As a kid growing up just down the way, I know of the work that happens in this beautiful place.
Before I begin my more extensive remarks about why we are here, I do want to share a few words about the news from Washington, D.C.
Today the House of Representatives will vote on the Inflation Reduction Act; I believe they have or they’re just about to. And I do want to thank Congresswoman Barbara Lee for being in Washington today to make that happen. (Applause.) Yes.
And very shortly, then, President Biden will sign the law into action. And it is just yet another major component of our administration’s agenda to bring down the costs for the American people.
Soon, we will cap the cost of insulin for seniors to just $35 a month, which is a huge step toward making life manageable for so many people.
We will reduce health insurance costs for 13 million Americans by an average of $800 a year. Again, a very significant step.
And we will allow Medicare to finally negotiate the price of prescription drugs, which will bring down the cost of medication for millions of Americans.
And to bring down energy costs, we will give working families as much as $8,000 to upgrade their HVAC system, which means, of course, lower energy bills and cleaner air.
And we will also make new and used electric vehicles more affordable so that people can afford a plug-in hybrid or electric car and pay less, or maybe nothing at all, when it comes to gas.
So, these climate investments, as you all know, are the lar- — largest in our nation’s history — extremely important in terms of dealing with the crisis that we face. Here in California, we watch it, see it. Governor, you’ve been doing a great job of addressing wildfires. But around our nation, we’re looking at floods and hurricanes, and we know that the moment is now. If we don’t act now, it will be irreversible.
So, these investments are the largest our nation has ever made and will, in the process of addressing the crisis, create millions of jobs — good-paying jobs in communities across our nation.
And if people ask you — just in case they might — “Who is going to pay for all of this?” Well, let them know: As we promised, we are not going to raise taxes on families making less than $400,000 a year, but we are going to expect that our largest corporations will pay their fair share.
And as we chart a course forward, we are excited about the work that is happening right now and the work that we are all here committed to doing together.
And so, let’s talk about space. (Laughter.) So, 139 years ago, in this city of Oakland, we built the first space observatory with funds that were provided by a local businessman. The observatory brought, basically, an eight-inch telescope right here.
And there was extreme excitement. We’ve looked at the newspaper accounts of the day — extreme excitement about what this innovation meant. It was written that there was going to be the ability of people here, on a clear night, to look up and see neighboring planets and faraway stars — things that had never been seen by the naked eye through any type of facility like this. It was so exciting. They talked about how you could see craters on the Moon.
I invite you all to read the articles. I was — I was tempted to just quote from all of them, but we might be here all afternoon.
So we have that history.
And then, of course, at the turn of the century, there was a technological revolution. Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first flight. And in the span of a single lifetime, our nation went from the sands of Kitty Hawk to the surface of the Moon.
We established space stations in Earth’s orbit, and we sent probes far out into our solar system. And all of this was made possible because of the partnerships.
From the very beginning, the innovation, the creativity, and the drive of commercial space companies, combined with the resources and the vision of the United States government, has powered America’s progress in space and our leadership of progress in space.
So, last December, in Washington, I convened our administration’s first National Space Council meeting. I am the chair of council. And as the chair, I am clear: With the exploration of space being defined the 20th century, we know that, living in this century, we must think about where we now stand and where we must go. So while it was defined quite well in the 20th century, the opportunity of space must guide our work in the 21st century.
And to seize that opportunity, our government must deepen and strengthen our partnership with the private sector.
Today, at laboratories, on launchpads, and in orbit — often, in partnership with our government — commercial space companies are making real the opportunity of space for millions of Americans. Their work is accelerating innovation in the space sector and shaping our nation’s future in space.
They are helping — working with us, they are allowing us, together, to build a capable, creative, and increasingly diverse STEM workforce. We’ve talked about that, many of us, this afternoon. And this work helps to make sure that what happens in space benefits the people here on Earth.
For example, commercial space companies design and launch satellites that predict the pattern of hurricanes and detect wildfires before they spread.
Here in my home state and our home state of California, firefighters rely on commercial satellites to communicate in areas where fire has destroyed a cellular network.
And soon, a new generation of satellites will help us fight the climate crisis by tracking and — and allowing us to see the patterns of greenhouse gas emissions and to see that in real time.
The commercial space industry is also a powerful engine for economic growth. Our nation’s space economy employs over 354,000 people and generates $200 billion a year.
As many of you know, later this month, NASA will launch Artemis I. We’re very excited about that. And it is the first in a series of missions that will return American astronauts to the Moon, including the first woman and person of color. (Applause.) And should you choose, Sala, you’ll be next. (Laughs.)
The Artemis Program would not be possible without the leadership and the partnership that we have with the commercial space industry.
The United States, you see, is the flag of choice for space activities. It is the flag of choice. And with that comes great opportunity but also great responsibility in terms of what course we will chart for the work that happens here on Earth that will then maximize the opportunities in space.
So our nation is entering a new era. And that new era includes considering and thinking about our exploration in space, and how we use space, and are we prepared for the possibilities but also the challenges.
To that end, we understand that we have got to update the rules, because they’re just simply outdated. They were written for a space industry of the last century. And when I was going through here just today, speaking with some of our innovators and looking at where the technology has grown in just the last decade, we know that we really are quite behind in terms of maximizing our collective understanding about how we will engage on the technology of today and what we can quickly and easily predict will be the technology over the next decades.
So, to maintain our position as the United States of America on this issue, it is critical that we work together to understand where we are; to recognize and have the courage to speak truth about what is obsolete; and then to partner to ensure that we are speaking the same language, with the same motivation, inspired by the opportunity of it at all, but then doing the work of updating how we have been talking and thinking about our exploration in space.
And so, we will do this work to make sure our nation remains a role model for the responsible use of space, because we know we must keep pace with the tremendous rate of innovation. So we must write new rules to provide the clarity that all of us require, to provide certainty.
We know that if we are to partner, if we are to invest, if we are to seek those who understand the potential of all of it, clarity and consistency is critical. And we know that we must write new rules that allow flexibility to incorporate the innovation that is occurring in real-time.
And so, all of this is something that we can imagine, and not only imagine, but the work that we are committed through this convening and the convening we are going to have in about a month to get this job done and to get it done with a sense of swift pace, understanding the technology is growing every day.
So I am proud today to announce that our partnership with regulatory agencies will engage the private sector as we develop a new rules framework. And we will discuss this work and much more at our next meeting, at the next convening of the National Space Council. That meeting will take place on September 9th, and I look forward to seeing many of you there.
So this is a convening with — the preparation for a working meeting, is my point. And — and with that, I’ll end with this story.
So, last month, President Biden and I unveiled the first photographs taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. I think we were all just in awe. I was sharing with some of the friends that when I first saw those photographs, I had a very — a very intellectual response, which was, “Wow.” (Laughs.)
It was just extraordinary what it is teaching us in these moments where we face so many challenges in the world. And then to see those photographs and realize there is still so much we don’t know and we’ve not seen, and giving us a sense of optimism about it all.
And so, those photos, of course, they were of our infant universe, as it was billions of years ago; of swirling galaxies and dying stars — photos that revealed a universe of humble size and awe-inspiring beauty.
So, seeing those photographs, as we all did — let that be a reminder to us of how far we have come from peering up at the planets through an eight-inch telescope to capturing images of the very birth of our universe.
So, let us remember that we have come a long way, but we still have so far to go. And we are going to do this work together. And I thank you all for the partnership and for the innovation and for the awe-inspiring work.
Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon. (Applause.) Thank you.
END 2:06 P.M. PDT