Vice President Kamala Harris visited the NASA Johnson Space Center on Friday to discuss federal policies regarding the further exploration of space and the creation of rules to govern future space activity.
The National Space Council – led by its chair, VP Kamala Harris – is composed of several executive branch officials and was created to assist “the President on the development and implementation of space policy and strategy,” according to the White House.
The council held its second meeting in NASA’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where they discussed some of the Biden administration’s priorities, such as:
- expanding of the nation’s STEM and technical workforce;
- addressing climate change;
- promoting international rules and norms to govern space activity.
“Space can and must be protected for the benefit of all people,” Harris said. “Our nation’s leadership in space is critical for our economic prosperity, to our scientific and technological progress and – in a time of increasing great-power rivalry – to our national security.”
Another major topic of discussion was the advancement of human space travel through NASA’s unmanned Artemis I moon mission – which was scrubbed last Saturday due to liquid hydrogen fuel leak.
“Soon, for the first time in half a century, America will go back to the moon,” Harris said. “The Artemis program will establish the first space station in lunar orbit and the first lunar basecamp where astronauts will train for the first mission to Mars.”
NASA officials say they’re hoping to launch Artemis I by the end of the month.
The discussion eventually transitioned to the regulation of space activity. Harris said rapid technological innovation has allowed private space companies to expand their capabilities beyond the scope of current regulations. In response, Harris said that the Biden administration was “currently developing the first rules as a framework for novel space activities.”
“As activity in space grows, we must also establish international rules and norms to reaffirm the rights of and demand responsibility from all spacefaring nations,” Harris said.
Harris added that 21 nations have signed onto the Artemis Accords — which aims “to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy,” according to NASA’s website.
At the end of the meeting, Harris asked council members provide a proposal for “the authorization and supervision of commercial novel space activities” within 180 days of the meeting.
“We have only just begun our journey into space,” Harris said. “Our task then — and our responsibility, dare I say — is to work together to guide humanity forward into this new frontier.”