Harris at Goddard
Vice President Kamala Harris examines the first images from the Landsat 9 spacecraft during a Nov. 5 visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center with center director Dennis Andrucyk (left) and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Credit: NASA/Taylor Mickal

WASHINGTON — In her first speech devoted to space since taking office, Vice President Kamala Harris said she will direct the National Space Council to develop a “comprehensive framework” for national space priorities, with an emphasis on climate change.

In a speech at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Nov. 5, Harris, as expected, announced that, as chair of the space council, she would hold the first meeting of the interagency body Dec. 1.

“As chair of the National Space Council, I will convene leaders from across our administration for an inaugural council meeting on Dec. 1,” she said. “At that meeting, we will outline a comprehensive framework for our nation’s space priorities.” That included civil and national security space activities as well as education and the “emerging space economy.”

Harris did not discuss additional details of that framework, but emphasized the need to use space capabilities to benefit society broadly. “While the exploration of space defined the 20th century, I believe that the opportunity of space will define the 21st century,” she said. “Today, our nation is more active in space than ever before and there are more ways than ever before that space can benefit humanity.”

That includes addressing the climate crisis. “Climate change is an existential threat and we must take immediate action to address it,” she said, including using satellites to monitor climate change. “I truly believe space activity is climate action.”

Climate change was a theme of Harris’s visit to Goddard, including seeing the first images from the Landsat 9 Earth observation satellite launched Sept. 27. NASA also announced shortly before her speech that it selected a smallsat mission to study storm development, called Investigation of Convective Updrafts or INCUS, as part of its Earth Venture Missions program for launch in 2027.

Accompanying Harris during the Goddard tour was NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We are known at NASA as the world’s premier space agency. But we are also at the point of the spear in climate change,” he said in remarks preceding Harris. “We are the leading climate agency.”

Nelson said the agency was “exploring the idea of a climate mission control” that he compared to mission controls for launches, but didn’t elaborate on exactly what that mission control would do with regards to climate data or analysis.

“Exploring the heavens will always be at the core of NASA’s mission, but so is confronting the challenges here on Earth,” he said. “Tackling climate change is imperative.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...