Vice President Kamala Harris toured NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt to advocate the Biden administration’s continued efforts to battle climate change.
The vice president not only saw the first image from NASA’s new Landsat satellite overseeing the Great Lakes in Detroit and Windsor, Canada, but also operated a robotic arm inside the agency’s Robotics Operation Center.
Harris’s visit on Friday came just days after President Joe Biden attended a climate summit with other world leaders in Glasgow, Scotland.
“I want to thank you for all you do to keep elevating the discourse and the imagination and the spirit of what works here in the U.S. You really do inspire people all over the world,” she said before dozens of NASA employees.
Agency administrators and scientists showcased advanced technology to highlight how satellite images from outer space help improve the environment on Earth.
Dr. Christian Braneon, a research scientist at NASA, conducted a video presentation to show how the satellite data can track and follow hurricanes, tornadoes and other potential inclement weather patterns.
“This gives us insights into why the storm rapidly intensifies before [it hits the mainland] and . . . gives us a better understanding of how storms occur and change,” he said.
Braneon, who’s also principal investigator of the agency’s climate change research initiative, complimented a project conducted by the New York City Council to assess which parts of the city are hotter and cooler. He said that helped to distinguish where to plant trees and place cooling centers during the summer.
Officials with NASA, the nation’s biggest space exploration operation housed in Prince George’s County, presented information on some of the agency’s latest projects including:
- Landsat 9 – A series of satellites which provide data on forests, farms, urban areas and freshwater systems to address agriculture planning, drought and water use. The U.S. Geological Survey also works on this mission.
- OSAM-1 (On-orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing) – A robotic spacecraft to be equipped with tools to extend satellite lifespans and refuel Landsat satellites.
- GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) – A series of satellites providing continuous coverage 23,000 miles above Earth to assess and track weather patterns and storms. NASA has partnered with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
Before Harris left, she announced she will chair a National Space Council meeting Dec. 1 to outline a comprehensive agenda for the nation’s space priorities to include civilian and military efforts, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and space economy.
“I believe it is incumbent upon all of us to seize all ways space can help us solve our biggest challenges, including that of the climate crisis,” she said. “I truly believe space activity is climate action. Space activity is education. Space activity is about our security and our strength. When it comes to our space activity, there is limitless potential.”
Late Friday night, the House voted 228 to 206 to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. According to the White House, it will direct billions to address climate change including $65 billion to rebuild an electric grid and $21 million to clean Superfund and brownfield sites.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), who led the effort to pass the measure, said in a statement the bill provides $238 million to restore the Chesapeake Bay, about $150 million over the next eight years for Metro and $63 million toward electric vehicles and expansion of an electric charging system in Maryland.
“For far too long our infrastructure has been allowed to fall into disrepair, posing harm to the communities that rely on it,” Hoyer said. “With this historic legislation – one of two pieces of the president’s larger Build Back Better agenda – we can have an infrastructure system that is more competitive, more revitalized and more climate-conscious for the future of all Marylanders.”