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EM – Vice President Kamala Harris visits NASA to see vital work in climate science

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Jillian Castillo
Jillian Castillo
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Vice President Kamala Harris shares her enthusiasm, along with Goddard Center Administrator Dennis Andrusik and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, for the results of current satellite missions using Goddard’s Hyperwall on November 5, 2021, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Hyperwall visualizes Earth science data for better understanding. Credit: NASA/Taylor Michal

The urgent need for Earth sciences and climate studies came to the fore last Friday when Vice President Kamala Harris visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The vice president got a glimpse into how the nation’s space program studies climate change and provides critical information for understanding the changes taking place on our planet and their impacts on our lives.

During the visit, Bill Nelson, Administrator of NASA, unveiled the first images of Landsat 9, a joint NASA-US Geological Survey (USGS) mission launched in late September. The images show Detroit with nearby Lake St. Clair, a shifting coastline from Florida, and areas from Navajo to Arizona. It will add to a wealth of data that helps us monitor the health of crops and water used for irrigation, manage vital natural resources, and track the effects of climate change.

The new images, all obtained on October 31, provide data on the changing landscapes of the Himalayas and Australia, adding to Landsat’s unparalleled record of data spanning nearly 50 years of observing Earth from space.

“I really believe that space activity is climate action. Space activity is education. Space activity is also economic growth. It is also innovation and inspiration. And that is about our security and our strength,” the vice president said. “When it comes to our space business, the potential is unlimited. …so, as we leave here, let’s continue to seize the opportunity of space.

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Harris and Nelson also discussed NASA’s announcement of the new Earth Venture Mission-3 (EVM-3) mission. The Investigation into Conventional Modernization Processes (INCUS) will study how tropical storms and thunderstorms develop and intensify, which will help improve weather and climate models.

“Today’s NASA experts have given us insight into the many ways we need to better understand our planet, from urban drought and heat to our oceans and the many landscapes we can see changing from the sky,” said Nelson. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to making real progress on the climate crisis for the benefit of the next generation, and NASA is at the heart of this work.”

NASA, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Geological Survey, are among the federal agencies that conduct climate research and provide critical climate data to agencies and organizations around the world. The prevalence of extreme weather and climate events – including droughts, floods and wildfires – is increasing. Glimpses from space help us study our planet as a unified system to understand these phenomena and benefit the people where they live.

The vice president met with scientists and engineers to discuss how NASA’s broad range of Earth science missions are helping to address the climate challenges facing our world.

NASA’s extensive Earth science activities include satellites operating in partnership with other agencies. These include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which also had representatives on hand to meet with Harris.

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“Now in its sixth decade, the NOAA and NASA partnership is bringing the world’s best technology into space to improve the nation’s ability to monitor and predict Earth’s climate and weather,” the official said. NOAA, Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA at NASA’s Goddard site are working to develop our country’s next generation of geostationary satellites, called GOES-Rs, that produce critical data for accurate forecasts. In time, it saves lives and helps people adapt to climate change.

“Landsat 9’s engaging images and basic in-house science will help better manage our nation’s lands and resources, preserve our cultural heritage, honor our responsibilities to Native Americans and indigenous peoples, and deal with the climate crisis,” said Tania Trujillo. From the Assistant Minister of Interior for Water and Science Affairs. “Every day, the nearly 50-year-old Landsat data archive that is freely managed and shared by the USGS provides new information and decision support for government officials, educators and businesses to understand and sustainably manage our changing landscapes.”

During his visit, Harris operated a robotic arm being tested for a future in-orbit resupply mission to the Landsat 7 satellite. This satellite is currently studying Earth as part of the Landsat fleet.

Harris also visited the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, and Ocean Ecosystem mission (PACE), which includes an instrument currently under construction at Goddard for launch in 2022. PACE will enhance ocean health assessment capabilities by measuring the distribution of phytoplankton — small plants and algae that Support the Marine Food Network. The GOES-R program was also introduced, with NOAA scheduled to launch the GOES-T satellite in February 2022 to improve weather forecasting.

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