Six months ago, President Joe Biden tapped VP Kamala Harris to head up the US National Space Council. The White House stayed largely mum on that front until Friday, when Harris gave her first speech fully focused on space at NASA’s Goddard facility in Maryland.
Mark your calendars…On Dec. 1, Harris will preside over the White House’s inaugural meeting of the National Space Council. Then and there, the VP will “outline a comprehensive framework” for US space priorities, so that the nation may “reap the full benefits” of the final frontier.
While Harris didn’t explicitly spell out US space priorities Friday, she dropped some easter eggs. An assorted selection of quotes:
- “While the exploration of space defined the 20th century, I believe that the opportunity of space will define the 21st century.”
- “Climate change is an existential threat and we must take immediate action to address it…I truly believe space activity is climate action.” Harris name-dropped Landsat-9, a joint mission between NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS).
- NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who also spoke Friday, noted: “We are the leading climate agency, and the proof’s in the pudding.”
- In addition to climate action, a timely topic last week, Harris said: “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.”
The long view: “In America, when we shoot for the moon, we plant our flag on it,” Harris has stated before. Like its predecessor, the Biden administration is still targeting 2024 for humanity’s return to the moon (via US astronauts).
For many space watchers, however, the prospect of a 2024 return strains credulity. The Artemis 1 launch date has slipped to early 2022—and NASA’s super-heavy SLS rocket has been beset by a series of delays. And that’s to say nothing of spacesuit procurement issues.
But…Let’s cap this with a glass-half-full outlook. SLS is fully stacked for launch in Florida, NASA and Space are resuming lunar lander work post-haste, and the US is set to formally outline space priorities at the highest level of government.