One Year into Biden Administration, NASA Looks to Future

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers opening remarks at the first meeting of the National Space Council, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.
Vice President Kamala Harris delivers opening remarks at the first meeting of the National Space Council, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.
Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Over the past year, NASA has made valuable contributions to Biden-Harris Administrations goals leading on the global stage, addressing the urgent issue of climate change, creating high paying jobs, and inspiring future generations.

Since President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn in one year ago, their administration has made generational progress for Americans and made NASA a priority. This spring, as Artemis I lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, the world will once again witness Americas unrivaled ingenuity and inspiration as NASA prepares the next generation to return to the Moon and on to Mars, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. I am proud of the work the agency has done to support this administrations priorities on climate change, global leadership, diversity, equity, STEM education, and so much more. And we all should look forward to an even more robust future as NASA continues to explore the heavens and benefit life here on Earth.

Highlights of NASAs efforts are below.

NASA Missions:

Since its inception, NASA has led the world in space, both in human spaceflight and science.

Mars: Perseverance and Ingenuity

  • The Perseverance Mars rover landed on the Red Planet in February 2021 where it is studying the rock and sediment in Mars Jezero Crater and aiding in the search for signs of ancient microbial life.
  • Perseverance collected its first rock core into its sampling tube. The core is enclosed in a sample tube, and available for retrieval on a future Mars Sample Return mission.
  • Ingenuity became the first aircraft to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet, successfully logging 18 flights and completing more than 30 minutes of cumulative flight time.
  • Perseverance, first funded and approved under the Obama-Biden Administration, is made possible by thousands of scientists and engineers from countries and organizations around the world.

James Webb Space Telescope

  • Webb launched from Kourou, French Guiana Dec. 25th, in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies.
  • In an incredible feat of engineering, the team has successfully completed the most critical and complex deployments, and the spacecraft now is on its way to its future home, nearly a million miles from Earth.
    • Webb will explore a wide range of science questions to help us understand the origins of the universe and our place within it. It will peer back to reveal the first stars and galaxies that formed about 13.5 billion years ago in the aftermath of the Big Bang.

International Space Station Extension

  • The Biden-Harris Administration has announced its commitment to extend International Space Station operations through 2030, and to work with our international partners in Europe (European Space Agency), Japan (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Canada (Canadian Space Agency), and Russia (State Space Corporation Roscosmos) to enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory through the rest of this decade.
  • Over the past two decades, the United States has maintained a continuous human presence in orbit around the Earth to test technologies, conduct scientific research, and develop skills needed to explore farther than ever before. The unique microgravity laboratory has hosted more than 3,000 research investigations from over 4,200 researchers across the world and is returning enormous scientific, educational, and technological developments to benefit people on Earth.

Humans in Space: NASAs Commercial Crew Program, Astronaut Candidate Announcement

  • NASA and SpaceX successfully launched eight astronauts to the International Space Station in 2021. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a cornerstone of private-public partnership passed into law under the Obama-Biden administration, has brought value to the American taxpayer and enabled incredible growth in the commercial space sector, all while providing safe, reliable transportation to the space station on American rockets from American soil.
  • Nelson introduced the members of the 2021 astronaut class, the first new class in four years Dec. 6 at NASAs Johnson Space Center in Houston. Ten newastronaut candidateswere selected from more than 12,000 applicants. The astronaut candidates recently began two years of training at Johnson and have the potential to walk on the Moon as part of Artemis.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)

  • DART, the worlds first full-scale mission to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards, launched in November.
  • DART will test whether a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it in a method of deflection called kinetic impact.
    • The test in the fall of 2022 will provide important data to help better prepare for an asteroid that might pose an impact hazard to Earth, should one ever be discovered.

Moon to Mars

  • NASA took critical steps in 2021 to prepare for the historic launch of Artemis I, an uncrewed flight test of NASAs powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft in Spring 2022, including the green run engine test and completing assembly of SLS and Orion for the first time.
    • NASA will land the first woman and person of color on the Moon as part of the Artemis program missions that will help the agency in preparation for human exploration of Mars.
    • SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA in the world and the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies 239,000 miles to the Moon in a single mission.

Addressing Climate Change and Natural Disasters:

NASA unequivocally provides the most comprehensive data in the world on the Earths systems and is the only space agency in the world providing end-to-end research on our home planet to analyze and understand the processes involved.

National Climate Task Force

  • NASA joined the National Climate Task Force established by President Biden and released a climate action plan aimed at averting mission impacts due to climate change, ensuring the resiliency of facilities and assets, and providing the nation and world unique climate observations, analysis, and modeling through scientific research.

Senior Climate Advisor

  • NASA established the new position of senior climate advisor to the administrator to ensure effective fulfillment of the Biden Administrations climate science objectives for NASA. In January, NASA hired Dr. Katherine Calvin to serve a dual role as both the climate advisor and agencys chief scientist.

Earth System Observatory

  • NASA announced a new Earth System Observatory, five integrated satellites that will provide key information to help mitigate and guide efforts related to climate change, disaster mitigation, fighting forest fires, and improve real-time agricultural processes.

Landsat 9

  • In September, NASA and United States Geological Survey launched Landsat 9, an Earth-observing satellite that will build on the most advanced measurements made in the program’s history.
  • The Landsat Program represents the longest, continuous, global satellite record of the Earths surface, allowing us to track the impacts of climate change.
  • These satellites have documented Earths changing landscape, helping farmers and scientists understand and manage land resources needed to sustain human life, like food, water, and forests.


  • NASA selected a new Earth science mission that will study the behavior of tropical storms and thunderstorms, including their impacts on weather and climate models.
  • The mission will be a collection of three SmallSats, flying in tight coordination, called Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS), and is expected to launch in 2027 as part of NASAs Earth Venture Program.
  • INCUS fills an important niche to help understand extreme weather and its impact on climate models all of which serves to provide crucial information needed to mitigate weather and climate effects on our communities.


  • To bring more data to forecasters and have a more consistent watch over Earth’s tropical belt where these storms form, NASA launched a test satellite, or pathfinder, ahead of a constellation of six weather satellites called TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats).
  • Planned for launch in 2022, the TROPICS satellites will work together to provide near-hourly microwave observations of a storm’s precipitation, temperature, and humidity a revisit time for these measurements not currently possible with other satellites.

National Space Council:

Vice President Kamala Harris Chairs First National Space Council Meeting

  • The vice president leads the National Space Council, and she announced a new, whole-of-government framework to ensuring that space activities create opportunities that benefit the American people and the world, and enhances our ability to maintain a vibrant space sector across civilian, commercial, and national security.
  • The Vice President charged the Council with an initial focus on the rules and norms governing space, leveraging space to tackle the climate crisis, and building a diverse space and STEM workforce.
  • In conjunction with the Vice President leading her first National Space Council meeting, President Biden also signed a new Executive Order that addresses the membership, duties, and responsibilities of the Council. The Order added five new members to the Council: The Secretaries of Education, Labor, Agriculture, and the Interior, as well as the National Climate Advisor. These new members demonstrate the Administration’s emphasis on ensuring the benefits of American space activities are applied broadly throughout society and employed to solve the toughest challenges, including addressing the climate crisis and building a vibrant workforce for the future.
  • At the meeting, Nelson highlighted the breadth of NASAs STEM engagement, from the more than 6,400 internships, fellowships, and other direct student higher education awards, to the $35 million in direct financial support to students enrolled in higher education programs.

Vice President Harris Tours NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center

  • During the visit, the Vice President got a first-hand look at NASAs Earth science missions and presented the first images from the Landsat 9 satellite.
  • While chairing her first National Space Council meeting, she highlighted the opportunities that the aerospace sector offers for science, the economy, national competitiveness, STEM education, and more.

International Collaboration:

NASA is a global leader in space and here on Earth. International partnerships play a key role in achieving mission success from collaboration on climate, to planetary science, and human exploration.

Ukrainian President Visits with NASA Administrator

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson at the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters in Washington.
  • They two discussed a renewed commitment to partnership in space, shared interest in exploration and discovery, and the importance of international cooperation for achieving mutual ambitions in space.

Artemis Accords

  • Several nations joined a growing list of countries in signing the Artemis Accords, principles that will help establish a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space.


  • NASA expanded its presence at COP26, a global summit brings parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The NASA Hyperwall served as the main attraction at the U.S. Center.

Partnered with ESA on Climate

  • Formed a strategic, first-of-its-kind partnership with ESA to observe Earth and its changing environment.
  • The partnership was formalized through a joint statement of intent, signed Tuesday, which outlines how the agencies will collaborate to ensure continuity of Earth observations; advance understanding of the Earth System, climate change and application of that knowledge; and collaborate on an open data policy that promotes open sharing of data, information, and knowledge within the scientific community and the wider public.

Lead Multilateral Meeting with Nearly 30 Space Agencies

  • Hosted a multilateral event with nearly 30 space agencies around the world at the International Aeronautical Congress to discuss the future of space exploration and underscore the importance of the safe, sustainable use of outer space.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility:

NASA is entirely committed to the full participation and empowerment of a wide variety of people, organizations, capabilities, and assets because we know this best enables the workforce to accomplish our missions.

Mission Equity

  • In response to Executive Order 13985 (Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government), NASA rolled out Mission Equity, held a public meeting to solicit feedback, and is reviewing public comments

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