Jun 2, 2021
State of NASA Address Speech Transcript 2021
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson delivered his first State of NASA address on June 2, 2021. He discussed the Artemis program and climate change. Read the transcript of the speech briefing here.
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Shane Kimbrough: (00:00)
… 50 miles above the earth, conducting world-class research for the earth.
Megan McArthur: (00:04)
As astronauts. We have the best jobs in the galaxy, but the work we do on station, wouldn’t be possible without your support. We’re on a path to land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon as part of the Artemis Program.
Mark Vande Hei: (00:18)
It is our honor to introduce someone who knows exactly what it’s like to live and work up here in orbit our, new administrator, the honorable Senator Bill Nelson.
Bill Nelson: (00:29)
Hi everybody, thank you very much. And thank you, Megan, Shane and Mark for the introduction. It’s well-known that NASA is the most popular agency or department of the federal government. And that’s because of you, the NASA family, and it’s such an honor to serve in a leadership position in this extraordinary group of folks. I’m so proud today to be joined by my wife, Grace, and be joined virtually by our children, Bill Jr. and Nan Ellen. I’m so grateful for all of their support, which has been over a lifetime of public service.
Bill Nelson: (01:22)
I got a call from the president-elect right after the first of the year and he wanted me to serve here. It was a surprise because I had not sought this position, but when the president calls you, you know what you do, you click your heels and you salute and you say, “Yes, sir.” And I am very glad that he gave me this opportunity. It’s been an incredible month getting up to speed about the agency’s goals and missions. And I want you to know, the truth be known, I’m like a kid in a candy shop.
Bill Nelson: (02:10)
Space has always been a passion for me. I grew up in the shadow of the cape. The names of the Original Seven were all known by our schoolmates. And it’s been a passion that has been fueled by my family history. As a matter of fact, on what was scrubland of rattlesnakes and mosquitoes and alligators, in 1913 my grandparents homesteaded under the Homestead Act and that 160 acres of land was deeded to my grandmother in 1917. That 160 acres today is at the north end of the space shuttle runway.
Bill Nelson: (03:09)
When I went to the launch pad for the first time, I was the seventh to crawl in and strap in. I wandered off on that launch tower by myself, looking to the Northwest in the direction of the old homestead. And it was just hard for me to comprehend that three quarters of a century earlier, my grandparents had homesteaded there and they could have never believed that a grandson was literally going to leave the face of the earth.
Bill Nelson: (03:47)
So, on the space shuttle in between conducting 12 medical experiments, enjoying the best crew ever, whenever you would get a free moment, and that was rare… So often I had to cheat on my sleep and I’d float up to the flight deck and I’d just float there in front of the window, looking back at earth. It really has an impression on you. And there’s actually a term for it among space fliers, it’s called the Overview Effect. Because, in the window of your spacecraft you see our home, the planet and it looks so beautiful, such a creation in the middle of nothing. And yet, it also looks fragile.
Bill Nelson: (04:52)
As a politician, I was struck by the fact that as we orbited the earth every 90 minutes, I did not see political divisions. I did not see racial divisions. I did not see religious divisions. I saw that we were all in this together. This is the unique mission of NASA, because we all come together as we push the frontier, as we push out into the unknown and we see our planet, our home, and we have a central mission to protect our planet.
Bill Nelson: (05:46)
As a result of that experience, I became more of an environmentalist, because I could see our ecosystem. Bob Cabana is here. Anyone who has flown, or you see these dramatic photos and videos, and you look at the rim of the earth and you can actually see the thin film of the atmosphere. You realize that that is what sustains all of life. With the naked eye you could see, from that altitude, how we’re messing it up.
Bill Nelson: (06:24)
You could see the color contrast coming across Brazil in the upper Amazon region. You could look to the east, there’s the mouth of the Amazon, you could see the silt for hundreds of miles out into the Atlantic. Coming across Madagascar, back then 36 years ago, they’d cut down all the trees. And so when the rains came there wasn’t a top soil and all of that top soil washed down the rivers. And you could clearly see that from space in the mouths of all the rivers that silt flowing into the bright blue waters of the Indian ocean.
Bill Nelson: (07:08)
Because of that environmental effect, I was really excited last week to join the President in announcing a new development of a next generation of climate data systems at NASA. It’s the Earth System Observatory to help us understand and track how climate change is impacting communities across the country and around the world.
Bill Nelson: (07:42)
That meeting, held at FEMA headquarters, in preparation for hurricane season. I underscored to the President how this Earth System Observatory will better help America and the world with better data to track natural hazards, including hurricanes, and be better prepared, and to support our communities, families, and businesses before a disaster, not just after.
Bill Nelson: (08:17)
The Earth System Observatory will consist of five integrated satellites. The first of which is scheduled to be launched in January of ’23. We need these investments because storms are getting stronger and more destructive and if we want to mitigate climate change, we’ve got to measure it. And that’s what NASA does. NASA designs, builds, launches, all of those instruments in space to give us an unprecedented understanding of the earth. It’s a 3D holistic view from the bedrock to the atmosphere. So let’s learn more about this new video.
Speaker 1: (09:11)
As NASA prepares to send humans to the moon and Mars, and peer even deeper into the universe, we turn with a renewed focus to our home planet of earth. The next generation of earth science begins with the new Earth System Observatory. The core of the observatory is an array of five new satellite missions that will study the atmosphere, the ground, and even what’s happening underneath the surface.
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen: (09:42)
These spacecraft will look at the earth, each one of them, their own way, and we’ll integrate all the data in a common approach.
Speaker 1: (09:51)
Taken together as a single observatory, we will have a complete three dimensional understanding of our earth systems, how they work together, how one change can influence another. It will watch our planet change, driving solutions for better living, managing water and food resources, predicting natural hazards, coping with sea level rise in coastal communities and heat islands in our cities.
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen: (10:24)
Every 10 years, the best scientists in the United States and worldwide come together and create a strategy, the Decadal Strategy, and it recommended that we build missions that together form an Earth System Observatory.
Gavin Schmidt: (10:38)
We’re going to be looking at processes at the micro physical scale at the large kind of convective scale, at the smallest scale in the oceans. And we’re going to be investigating those, pulling that out, encapsulating that, putting that into weather models and climate models. And those are going to allow us to predict and project the future with far more competence.
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen: (11:02)
We can, from space-
Speaker 2: (11:03)
… with far more companies.
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen: (11:03)
We can, from space, help farmers. We can help others that grow food around the earth.
Dr. Mitra Dutta: (11:09)
If there is an earthquake we can get to our models better, and from there, we can predict better also in the future.
DR. Karen St. Germain: (11:17)
We can monitor freshwater both on the surface and underground to help water managers, both for communities, as well as agriculture.
Speaker 1: (11:27)
To build the observatory, we will expand our partnerships with commercial companies and international space agencies to take advantage of innovation and new technology.
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen: (11:39)
We recognized because of the global nature of the issues at hand, we want international partners to be part of that also. We are working together and the science that we’re doing has to serve all of us.
DR. Karen St. Germain: (11:53)
NISAR is our first major partnership with the Indian Space Agency in earth science. It brings together two different kinds of radar systems that together will see changes in our earth surface that will help us predict natural hazards in the future.
Speaker 1: (12:11)
The NISAR mission will measure changes in earth’s surface less than a centimeter across. It will measure the movement of glaciers and ice sheets, the dynamics of earthquakes and volcanoes and changes in farmland.
Dr. Mitra Dutta: (12:25)
We will observe the earth every 12 days exactly at the right repeat past orbit. We can study small changes in the earth system sciences.
Gavin Schmidt: (12:40)
The Earth’s climate is changing. We have documented the changes that we seen over the last few decades. We know that it’s being driven by human activities, and it’s absolutely essential that we continue to understand what’s happening, what’s changing in order to better predict what’s going to happen and perhaps help people make better choices.
Speaker 1: (13:03)
Understanding how our planet and its climate are changing is the foundation for a more resilient and sustainable future. NASA’s Earth System Observatory is the next step in this ongoing mission, a mission to the only planet you can call home.
Bill Nelson: (13:21)
And you’ve just seen some of these great scientists. And I believe Dr. Z is almost as excited as I am, and that’s what he’s leading. And it’s incredible. And what you just saw is just the tip of the iceberg. The Earth System Observatory is just one of the many missions that we have on the horizon. And I’m excited to share more about the exciting future we have in store here at NASA. But first I want to thank you for all the work you’ve done over the past year. Back in March, 2020, many of you packed up your computers. You went home to work from your kitchen table, your living rooms, your basements. While some of you were mission critical. And you had to continue working on site under strict guidelines to keep you healthy and to keep your colleagues and your families healthy too, you did that. And I thank you for that.
Bill Nelson: (14:31)
And despite all these hardships, it’s been an amazing year for NASA. The agency has launched 10 astronauts from American rockets on American soil. We’ve had all of America on the edge of their seats as Perseverance came through those seven minutes of terror, made a successful landing on Mars. And since then we’ve created oxygen on Mars and we’ve seen Ingenuity, that little helicopter, defeat the odds, outliving its planned lifespan. And it transitioned from a tech demo to a scout. It’s the first flight on another planet. And here’s Jennifer Trosper out at JPL to give us a live update on Perseverance and Ingenuity.
Jennifer Trosper: (15:40)
Thank you. Well, it’s a privilege to be here to talk about the Perseverance Rover mission. Today is the hundred and first sol on Mars for the Perseverance Rover. 101 Martian days ago, Percy successfully landed on the red planet at Jezero Crater. Jezero Crater is an ancient lake bed on Mars and a great place for Perseverance to search for ancient microbial life. Now shortly after landing, we started sending down images for the first time of the landing and from the rover’s perspective. And then shortly after that, Perseverance quickly got to work on her commissioning activities. Commissioning is when we check out all the functions of the Rover to make sure that during their flight to Mars and their rather dramatic landing on Mars, the functions all still work. Just two days ago, Perseverance finished all of her commissioning activities. During this time, she sent down over 75,000 images of her landing site. And some of those images were what I call the vacation photos of Percy and Ingenuity sitting there together on the surface of Mars, learning new things.
Jennifer Trosper: (16:59)
She also deployed Ingenuity, photographed the flights and relayed the data back to earth. And now we are continuing with an operational demo where Ingenuity is helping Perseverance learn new things and figure out which directions to go for her science campaigns. We’ve recorded the sounds on Mars for the first time, of the wheels interacting with the rocks, of the winds, of the helicopter flying, but we’ve also checked out every instrument and the robotic arm and the sampling system and the vehicle is working phenomenally well. And now, since the end of commissioning has happened, we are starting to drive south to region called SETA. SETA is an area where we will look around and find a location that is the best place for our first sample. So it’s been a very exciting 100 days, but we’re looking forward to the beginning of this new science campaign. It’s back to you.
Bill Nelson: (18:01)
Well, thank you so much. And I really believe that no other organization in the world can do what this amazing team has done. And certainly not under such difficult circumstances. In the nearly 15 months since the beginning of the pandemic, you all have not only landed a rover on Mars, but also supported advancements, getting us closer to launching the first crude Artemis mission. And in just a few months, the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which we’ll see the light from the first galaxies that formed in the early universe after the big bang. Think about that. Universe almost 13 and a half billion years ago. James Webb will capture the light from about 150 million years after the big bang. So James Webb will be looking back 13,350,000,000 years to capture the light. And so this is just a few other things that you all have been working on. And I’m thrilled now to have a special treat for you because it’s a special guest, Captain Kirk himself, to inspire you all to boldly go into the future.
William Shatner: (19:51)
I want to congratulate Bill Nelson as NASA’s new administrator. We’re all delighted that he’s here. Why does NASA exist? Why do we exist? Why does life exist upon this strange and lonely planet? How did we arrive and for what reason? An age old question wasn’t that each of us at one time or another has asked. Each time the universe responds with silence. NASA stands before that silence and probes that mystery. We stand with NASA in response to the incredible miracle of impossible life on an insensate world. We move back to a moon that we wish we had never deserted. We move onward to Mars to establish a base and then a community, and finally a miniature civilization on its enigmatic soil.
William Shatner: (20:57)
We do it because NASA has realized that the universe which extends for billions of light years in all directions is meaningless unless… Unless what? Unless there are observers and caretakers of that stunning interstellar display. The universe demands to be noticed, to be seen and to dutifully noted. The purpose of life on earth is to see, to know and to tell what the cosmos has to offer. Without us, human beings, without NASA, the universe would be unseen, unknown, untouched. So NASA, in the coming years, will be chief witness and we as fellow observers celebrates to the cause. Can NASA do this? Can we run tandem with NASA and live-
William Shatner: (22:03)
Can we run tandem with NASA and live forever or a million years, whichever comes first? We can. We will. We must.
Bill Nelson: (22:17)
After a speech like that, I’m ready to go. What a wonderful tribute to all that NASA means to the world, and we do have an exciting future ahead. And as you can see on the screen behind me, we’re assembling the rocket at this very minute down at the Kennedy Space Center. It’ll pave the way to return American astronauts to the surface of the moon. That rocket is the Space Launch System. It will launch our Orion spacecraft and cargo on missions to lunar orbit and beyond. And soon, I mean days, we’re starting to stack that massive core stage between its two boosters in the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC. The SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world. 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch. All this means we’re on our way to land the next Americans on the moon and this time we’re going to learn how to live and work on another world. America’s longterm presence at the moon both robotic and human will help develop the experience and capabilities we need to eventually send the first astronauts to Mars.
Bill Nelson: (23:51)
Artemis 1, the first un crewed mission, will launch from Kennedy later this year. It will spend 26 days in retrograde lunar orbit, traveling to distances that no human rated spacecraft has ever been. And America will also see our first robotic lander on the moon since 1968, ushering in a new era of a global science and exploration presence as more commercial moon deliveries will follow. And landing the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface as a part of Artemis is not a statement, it is an action. The United States must and will continue to lead the way globally, not just an exploration, but also in equity. We can be proud that all this work is good for science and humanity, and it also supports and creates good paying American jobs. We’re on track to do so many more amazing things for the country and the world, because that’s what NASA does. It’s just a little agency, but its value is immense. That total value is hard to quantify.
Bill Nelson: (25:28)
You can look at all the ways it helps. STEM education, billions of dollars in partnerships with small businesses, economic impact in all 50 states, hundreds of thousands of good high paying jobs, incredible technology spin-offs like in your pocket right now, a camera in your cell phone, and inspiration and investment in the workforce of the future as we educate our workforce for all these amazing things. Think of what Apollo did for a generation of scientists and engineers and mathematicians. We’re going now to inspire a whole new generation of students, students, the Artemis Generation. And that’s not all. We will continue to be a catalyst for the growth of a healthy and vibrant commercial space industry, expanding opportunities in low earth orbit and pushing further to the moon and beyond.
Bill Nelson: (26:46)
And we will continue to develop the cutting edge space technologies and transformative capabilities. We continue to advance aviation technologies to make our skies safer, our aircraft more sustainable, and to get you to your destination faster and safer than ever before. And we will continue to inspire and arm our workforce of the future through our STEM Engagement Programs. We will continue to push the boundaries of space exploration through science missions with spacecraft, telescopes, rovers and more, and we will do all of this and more because that’s what NASA does and no one does it better.
Lili Villarreal: (27:49)
Hi, I’m Lili and I’m from the Exploration Ground System Program. I’m the EGS Flow Manager and I’m here in the VAB at Kennedy Space Center 16 floors up. So we’re currently assembling all the flight components for the Artemis 1 vehicle. Behind me, you’ll see the two boosters that are already fully stacked and, of course, they’re just currently in the transfer aisle getting ready to be lifted and mated. After that, we’ll install the rest of the flight harbor components, and on top of that, we’ll put the Orion vehicle and then we’ll be ready for launch. This is definitely an exciting time here at Kennedy Space Center.
Megan Person: (28:26)
This is the X-57 Maxwell. It’s NASA’s first all electric piloted aircraft and it’ll pave the way for the future of electric aircraft and create certifications. NASA Armstrong’s also working on remote piloted and autonomous aircraft that will help set standards for air taxi, package delivery, and our work in the national airspace.
Dr. Amber Straughn: (28:50)
We are sending the world’s premier space science observatory, the Webb Telescope, one million miles from earth to explore every phase of cosmic history. It’ll study everything from the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe to planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars.
Dr. Jason Dworkin: (29:07)
I’m standing in the Astrobiology [inaudible 00:29:09] Laboratory where samples from the OSIRIS-REx Mission will be coming in 2023. This is going to be an incredible year for asteroid science. When we launch the DART Mission, it will help us understand how to potentially deflect an asteroid from earth. Our Lucy Mission will study of the mysterious Trojan asteroids and the Psyche Mission will head to an asteroid that might harbor the metallic core of a planetoid. We also have exciting new space communications missions and a robotic servicing mission that will refuel and relocate another satellite to extend its life [inaudible 00:29:38].
Dr. Christian V. Braneon : (29:44)
I guess we do a lot of the number crunching that NASA needs in order to develop its world class climate modeling projections. We’ve got more than 20 satellites already up in orbit and in this decade alone we’re adding another half a dozen. Here at Goddard and across NASA you can bet we’re not going to stop innovating. We’re trying to learn everything we can about this beautiful place we call home.
Bill Nelson: (30:12)
America has always had a frontier. At the beginning of our country, that frontier was westward. Now that frontier is upward and it’s out into the cosmos. It is a part of our DNA to be explorers, adventurers. That’s in our DNA as Americans, and we will continue to push the boundaries of space exploration. In 1992, NASA established a new program within its Science Mission Directorate, the Discovery Program. This program invites scientists and engineers to propose smaller focused planetary science missions that have the potential to achieve great things at lower cost than larger agency flagship missions. To date, NASA has launched 13 Discovery missions like the Insight Mars Lander, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, our Lucy Asteroid Mission, and that’s scheduled for launch this fall. Lucy is just one of three Discovery missions NASA is planning to launch in the next three years, and I’m excited to break some big news today. We have two new Discovery missions to announce.
Bill Nelson: (33:22)
The truths of this clouded planet. Congratulations to the teams behind NASA’s two planetary science missions, VERITAS, truth, and DAVINCI+. These two sister missions, both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface. They will offer the entire science community, the chance to investigate a planet we haven’t been to in more than 30 years. In our solar system of the Rocky planets, there’s mercury closest to the sun, it has no atmosphere. Then there’s Venus with an incredibly dense atmosphere. Then there’s earth with a habitable atmosphere. And then there’s Mars with an atmosphere that is just 1% of earth’s. We hope these missions will further our understanding of how earth evolved and why it’s currently habitable, when others in our solar system are not. Planetary science is critical in answering key questions that we have as humans like, are we alone?
Bill Nelson: (34:53)
What implications beyond our solar system could these two missions have? This is really exciting stuff. And it’s an emerging area of research for NASA. And so before I leave you, I want to thank you. Now there’s no doubt that NASA is the premier space agency in the world, but NASA is only as good as its people. And we’re lucky to have the best of the best. I’m committed to leading NASA as our team, with our soon to be Senate confirmed deputy administrator, Colonel Pam Melroy and Chief Financial Officer, Margaret Vo Schaus, and with the Associate Administrator Bob Cabana. But it’s crucial that this is not a top down agency. It’s an agency where our workforce, every single one of you is critical to the success of our missions. And I know that, and I know it from personal experience, because of participating in one of the space shuttle missions. It’s you on the line that make this possible.
Bill Nelson: (36:22)
And another way of expressing that appreciation is to tell you a story that I’ve always heard around Kennedy. It came out of the Apollo Program. There was a NASA employee, as they were developing the space center that was digging a ditch. And a reporter went over to him and asked him, “What are you doing?” And he responded, “I’m helping to land a man on the moon.” So I hope to hear a lot of you all over NASA and especially on the line. And when we’re able to see each other again in person, I hope you’ll stop, introduce yourself, and I want to thank you so much. Thank you for what you’re doing for NASA, for our country, and God bless you.
Prital Johnson: (37:36)
What motivates me is going outside at night, and looking up at the moon and thinking about how humans are going to be walking on the moon once again in the very near future.
Brian Banner: (37:48)
It is a big idea, but that’s what we do at NASA. I’m focused on taking those big ideas and making them into something that we can actually do and actually do on time.
Dr Yolanda Shea: (38:02)
Want to make sure we have really accurate measurements of earth so that we can detect changes in climate over time. I’m thankful it’s not just me working on this mission, because I so value what other folks bring to the table.
Sydney Schulo: (38:18)
By developing this aircraft, we’re actually coming up with a lot of the standards that will be used to certify future electric aircraft.
Brian Banner: (38:27)
But NASA is leading and partnering with industries across the nation and the world, employing thousands and tens of thousands of Americans across the nation. Teamwork is the biggest thing of what has to work to do such a challenging thing as living around the moon. And we’re coming together to be able to really take human space exploration to the next step.
Damian Taylor: (38:48)
We’re bringing this American ingenuity, the collective greatness of all of the diverse minds that are in the United States on these grand challenges that we face.
Diana Trujillo: (39:02)
Every day I go to work and I know there is a big purpose. It is high stakes, high pressure, but to be honest, that’s what we do. That’s what we do best.
Javier Ocasio-Perez: (39:13)
I was a summer intern back in 2007, the experience changed my life forever. If people there were so inclusive and I want to be able to inspire the little kids out there to be like, “If he was able to do this, then I can too.”
Torry Johnson: (39:28)
I want largest number of students to have access. We work with schools and with students so that they see that they don’t have to figure this out alone. And it’s always fascinating for me when a student literally has the proverbial light bulb go off, that this is something they can do.
Prital Johnson: (39:48)
Orbital dynamics that don’t slow down during a pandemic. We had to come up with ways to keep going right from the get-go. Because of all the safeguards that NASA and our team put in place, we all felt very safe, still being able to develop our flight hardware on center.
Diana Trujillo: (40:09)
I have hope that the current vaccine rollout is going to help us. As we continue to vaccinate our entire population, we can come back to work in a way where we can continue to do the job that we have, understanding now that the situation has changed.
Dr Yolanda Shea: (40:25)
I am inspired by my colleagues by the team members because of the diligence that people have had in continuing to make this mission move forward.
Damian Taylor: (40:38)
Just some of the most phenomenal people in the world. And the things that I get to work with are just on the cutting edge.
Diana Trujillo: (40:46)
I will say the possibilities are endless. Working in NASA is something that not even in my wildest dream, I thought I was going to end up doing. And now that I’m doing it, it is the right place and the right home for me.
Prital Johnson: (40:58)
NASA is changing the future of space flight with the Artemis Program. Generations to come will look back at this moment in history. And I’m just so excited to get to be a part of it.