Over the past year, NASA has made valuable contributions to Biden-Harris Administration’s 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 America’s 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 administration’s 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 NASA’s efforts are below.
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: NASA’s 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 NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Ten new astronaut candidates were 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 world’s 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 NASA’s 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 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 Earth’s 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 Administration’s climate science objectives for NASA. In January, NASA hired Dr. Katherine Calvin to serve a dual role as both the climate advisor and agency’s 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.
- 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 Earth’s surface, allowing us to track the impacts of climate change.
- These satellites have documented Earth’s 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 NASA’s 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 NASA’s 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 NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
- During the visit, the Vice President got a first-hand look at NASA’s 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 to a request for information.
- Mission Equity is a comprehensive effort to assess agency programs, procurements, grants, and policies, and examine what potential barriers and challenges may exist for communities that are historically underrepresented and underserved.
NASA Headquarters Officially Named for Mary W. Jackson
- NASA celebrated the agency’s first African American female engineer, Mary W. Jackson, with a ceremony to formally name the agency’s headquarters building in Washington in her honor.
Dual Anonymous Science Grant Proposal System
- NASA is experimenting with changing its science grant proposal system to a dual anonymous system – one where names of reviewers and proposers are both kept hidden – which has been proven to increase fairness and reduce hidden biases for research awards.
- NASA has pilot programs underway and used this method to choose the recently announced set of first research projects for the James Webb Space Telescope.
NASA STEM education and engagement is critical to our nation’s goal of building a diverse future STEM workforce and engages students in authentic learning experiences that spark interest and provide connections to NASA’s missions.
NASA 2021 STEM-a-Thon
- NASA hosted STEM-a-Thon with a series of activities and engagements for students with more than 6,600 registrants from across the globe. NASA’s STEM-a-Thon is aimed at sparking interest in careers and broadening student participation in STEM. This year’s event highlighted paths to careers at NASA and encouraged students to pursue their interests in STEM.
NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP)
- NASA awarded grants to MSIs to support Artemis Space Technology. $3.5 million will be distributed to selected universities over two years. NASA’s MUREP called upon Minority Serving Institutions to develop proposals for how they could use NASA funding to strengthen their support for underrepresented communities.
- NASA chose six MSIs to receive the MUREP INCLUDES award. Each award provides up to $1.2 million for a three-year period to implement the institution’s proposal.
- In fiscal year 2021, NASA’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) conducted five competitive awards processes aimed toward increasing research and development capacity and improvement, while enabling valuable contributions to NASA mission needs and challenges. These five competitive solicitations yielded 94 selected proposals for a total of over $45 million in awards to institutions.
- In fiscal year 2021, Space Grant awarded $42 million in cooperative agreements to institutions in all 50 states, Washington DC & Puerto Rico, resulting in over 3,700 Significant Student awards. FY21 also saw the expansion of the Space Grant Consortia to include over 1,100 partner institutions throughout Academia, Industry, State/Local Government, and non-profit organizations.
- In addition to direct awards made to Higher Education students, the program had over 193,000 student participants, 16,700 faculty participants, and over 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts with another 180 pending.
Next Gen STEM
- In FY21, Next Gen STEM, OSTEM’s K-12 project, reached 467,805 students and 35,562 educators through various events, activities and STEM learning.
Million Girls Moonshot
- NASA partnered with Million Girls Moonshot’s Reach for the Stars Downlink Event, part of the Million Girls Moonshot, a five-year partnership designed to cultivate an engineering mindset within one million girls by 2025. Over 24,000 students registered for the event.
- NASA nearly doubled the number of participants in its internship program over the fiscal year, and both the fall and spring intern cohorts were NASA’s largest to date for those sessions.
- NASA activities supported more than $60 billion in total economic output and supported more than 300,000 jobs nationwide.
- NASA grew the agency’s social media following to 277 million in 2021 – up 14% from 240 million in 2020.
- 4.2 million viewers watched live as Perseverance landed on Mars. Currently, the landing broadcast is the most-watched video of all time on NASA’s YouTube channel with almost 24 million views.
- NASA also conducted its first live Spanish language broadcast for the Mars Perseverance landing, which received more than 2.6 million views.
- More than 1 million students participated in NASA’s Mission to Mars Student Challenge.
- More than 7.7 million viewers tuned into the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. The launch broadcast is now among the top 20 videos of all time on NASA’s flagship channel.
- The YouTube NASA en español broadcast of the Webb Telescope launch, “Desplegando el universo,” reached 465,000 views.