Honoring Three Astronauts Who Represent the American Character

This past weekend, NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, along with fellow veteran astronauts Michael López-Alegría and Scott Kelly, were inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. As the inductees of the 2020 class, they joined the 99 individuals who currently hold that this esteemed honor. Astronauts López-Alegría, Melroy, and Kelly were selected as inductees in 2020. However, their induction ceremony was postponed, allowing us to safely honor their achievements with family, friends, and the NASA workforce at Kennedy Space Center. 

As I said during my remarks, “Astronauts cement America’s reputation as a beacon of discovery.” These three giants personify the American character as explorers, adventurers, and pioneers. 

I hope you will watch this incredible induction ceremony and read my remarks. 

NASA Administrator Nelson’s Remarks as Prepared 

Good morning. John Zarrella, thank you for serving as Master of Ceremonies. More importantly, thank you for covering the space program for decades. 

There are sites that symbolize the daring spirit of the American character. The Kennedy Space Center is one of those places. 

It is a place where unthinkable missions are accomplished by remarkable people. 

Explorers, pioneers, and adventurers have graced these grounds for nearly 60 years. It’s a fitting home for the Astronaut Hall of Fame. 

Astronauts cement America’s reputation as a beacon of discovery. 

Today, we gather to honor three legendary astronauts: Michael López-Alegría, Pamela Melroy, and Scott Kelly. 

From this sacred site, these three pioneers propelled upward. They explored the heavens. They broke barriers and set records. They pushed the boundaries of humanity’s reach. 

Today, we are inducting a trailblazer who wanted to play with planes, not dolls. As a young girl, she was fascinated by the sky. She dreamed of flying among the clouds. Well, she sure did. Pam Melroy served as the Pilot on two missions and the Commander on another. And if I may add, NASA is blessed to have a visionary leader like Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.           

Today, we are also inducting an adventurer who was raised in New Jersey. His parents were police officers. They pushed him to serve his community as an emergency medical technician during high school. They encouraged him – and his twin brother – to pursue lofty goals. Scott Kelly did just that. He inspired the world when he spent 340 days aboard the ISS. And we know Scott is proud that he and his brother, Senator Mark Kelly, were the first relatives to become astronauts in NASA’s history. 

And finally, today, we are inducting an explorer who immigrated from Spain when he was a young boy. Michael López-Alegría would go on to perform ten spacewalks, holding the longest all-time EVA duration record among NASA astronauts. And he is not done yet. He will return to low-Earth orbit – this time, as Commander of the Axiom Mission 1 to the ISS. 

We honor these three astronauts today for their extraordinary achievements in space. But let’s also learn from their aspirations.  

Each of these individuals has a unique story. But each ventured into the cosmos as a NASA astronaut. 

This agency brings people together for the benefit of humanity. That is the power NASA. We unify. We discover. We inspire. 

Americans and people from around the world will continue to come to this museum. Many of them will be children… members of a new generation – the Artemis generation. 

As they learn about the legacies of these astronauts, they will be inspired. Perhaps they will one day join the NASA family as a technician or mathematician. Maybe they will walk on the Moon… or take humanity’s next giant leap and venture to Mars. 

There are limitless possibilities because of the endless inspiration found in this museum of giants. 

Michael, Pam, and Scott, congratulations on this well-earned recognition. 

Thank you for daring us to keep looking upward and pushing outward into the unknown. 

God bless you. 


The Path Forward for Climate Resiliency and Energy Efficiency

Every October, the federal government marks National Energy Awareness Month. This is a time for us to lead by example, providing energy solutions that strengthen every community across our country.  

Inaction is not an option. 

Extreme weather continues to wreak havoc across America. To put this crisis in perspective, nearly one in three Americans experienced a weather disaster during this past summer alone. Five million people from Texas to North Dakota were left without power during a deep freeze in February. So far this year, over 47,000 wildfires throughout the country have burned almost 6.5 million acres. It’s almost certain the 2021 hurricane season will use up its allotted names for the Atlantic – something that has only happened twice since the 1950s.    

None of this is a coincidence. It’s a consequence of climate change, which President Biden calls “the existential threat of our time.” I completely agree with the President. The cost of the climate crisis is hard to completely capture. It is lost homes and businesses, decimated infrastructure, and – worst of all – lost lives. 

Many may think NASA is solely focused on exploring the heavens. While we will always push out farther into the cosmos, one of NASA’s greatest missions is protecting the plant we have: Earth. 

That was a point I made during a climate roundtable earlier this month at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Even if most Americans don’t realize it yet, NASA is the point of the spear on climate change. 

Right now, NASA is equipping Americans – and the world – with better data to track natural hazards – from hurricanes to wildfires. Our mission is clear: to better prepare and support communities, families, and businesses. 

Last month, NASA launched Landsat 9, a satellite built to monitor the Earth’s land surface and provide data and imagery to help make science-based decisions – from water use wildfires impacts. For a half-century, Landsat satellites have observed our home planet, providing an unparalleled record of how its surface has changed over timescales from days to decades. Through this partnership with the United States Geological Survey, we’ve been able to provide continuous and timely data for users. This information empowers people to understand, predict, and plan for the future.  

Take OpenET, a new web-based water data platform launched earlier this month. Building on more than two decades of research, OpenET puts NASA data into the hands of farmers, water managers, conservation groups, and others to accelerate improvements and innovations in water management. It provides satellite-based information on water consumption in areas as small as a quarter of an acre at monthly and yearly intervals.  

OpenET is a new web-based platform that puts NASA data on water in 17 western United States into the hands of farmers, water managers and conservation groups, Based on more than two decades of research, OpenET uses publicly available data and open source models to provide satellite-based information on evapotranspiration (the “ET” in OpenET) in areas as small as a quarter of an acre and at daily, monthly and yearly intervals.
Credits: NASA Applied Sciences/Mike Brophy


In addition to many other existing Earth Science programs, we are continuing to develop a new concept at NASA: a climate mission control center. The idea is to equip state, local, tribal, and territorial governments with climate data to develop strategies. We can’t mitigate climate change and its impacts like energy inefficiency unless we measure and understand it. And that’s NASA’s expertise.   

In a few days, leaders from around the world will gather in Glasglow, Scotland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. America’s space agency’s commitment is to build on our long history of Earth science and accelerate our efforts for the benefit of all humanity.  

Climate Change Mission Control

NASA supercomputer model shows how greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) – a key driver of global warming – fluctuate in Earth’s atmosphere throughout the year. Higher concentrations are shown in red. Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio / NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office

How do we work together to create a nation resilient against climate change?   

Earlier today, NASA joined forces with FEMA to co-host their Resilient Nation Partnership Network Alliances for Climate Action Virtual Forum Series 

NASA’s researchers, innovators, and pioneers are on the forefront of climate action.  NASA’s Earth observation and research supports the Biden administration’s climate agenda, which outlines putting the climate crisis at the center of our country’s foreign policy and national security. President Biden has been clear: the climate crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck, whole-of-government approach.    

Of course, we can’t mitigate climate change unless we measure and understand it. That’s NASA’s expertise.     

The sad reality is that climate change is already impacting our communities. The cost is enormous. It is loss of life. It is loss of livelihoods. And it is loss of communities.  Unless we act, and we act decisively, the poorest among us will suffer disproportionately, and instability will increase – both here at home and abroad. 

Over the past year and a half, we have all experienced firsthand the importance of looking ahead and the importance of understanding and planning for potential disasters. The poorest and most vulnerable among us are too often those who pay the highest price for inaction.     

 The Biden administration has made advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities a top priority. It is such a priority, that President Biden signed an Executive Order to do just that on day one of his presidency.   

The Biden administration has also focused on advancing environmental justice, which we know is closely linked with equity. Together, we need to further develop the capacity to monitor and reduce the detrimental impacts of hurricanes and floods. This will have a tremendous impact on America’s underserved communities.    

With the clear effects of climate change, the devastation from hurricanes and floods is severe, and growing more severe with each new year.       

In the face of disasters, there are significant equity issues when it comes to which communities gets support, and when.  But we need more. We need continued agency cooperation. We need a mission control center for climate change.    

NASA uses a mission control center for every launch and mission. In the case of the International Space Station, it has operated 24/7, 365 for over two and a half decades.  No less effort should be made to reverse the heating of our planet and to restore mother nature’s environmental balance.  

NASA is one of the world’s greatest experts in climate science, engaged in a broad range of activities to track and mitigate the effects of climate change. And we are actively focusing on making that data available and useful to U.S. citizens and beyond.  

Today I also announced that in addition to our existing Earth Science programs, we are exploring a new concept at NASA: A climate resilience design center that can help state, local, tribal, and territorial governments develop their climate resilience strategies.   

This is not something that we can do alone. It is an endeavor that is going to take collaboration with other agencies, like FEMA, and it’s going to take data from commercial companies and from international partners.    

But as one of the lead U.S. climate science agencies, NASA will take a leading role in helping our nation, and the world, prepare for the challenges to come.    

Our decisions will determine the fate of Earth. Let us protect it. Let us act boldly and with urgency. Let us preserve it for this generation – and generations that follow.       

You can watch my full remarks here. 

Stronger, Together

NASA’s role has long been to set the vision for space exploration. 

To successfully accomplish our missions and build on the agency’s incredible legacy, we must be fully committed to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) for our entire workforce. We must remain united to empower these values, enable the best teamwork, and accomplish our common purpose and vision – to discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of all humanity.

As President Biden stated in Executive Order 13985, “[e]qual opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy, and our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths.” It is our duty at NASA to remain steadfast in “advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity.”

Linked here is NASA’s new Policy Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility for NASA’s Workforce and Workplaces to make clear NASA’s full commitment to DEIA. It is with this framework we can reinforce our agency’s commitment to inclusion and equity to accomplish our missions together and set the standard across the world.

We are stronger together, and our diversity is our strength.

El Mes de la Herencia Hispana y el compromiso de la NASA con la diversidad, la equidad y la inclusión

To read in English, click here.

En toda la agencia, la NASA se enorgullece de conmemorar el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, la celebración anual que rinde homenaje a las culturas y contribuciones de los hispanos y latinoamericanos, del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre.

Como mencioné a nuestro equipo en un mensaje interno de ayer para honrar el inicio del Mes de la Herencia Hispana, el tema de este año es Esperanza: una celebración de la herencia y la esperanza hispanas. Todos estamos invitados a celebrar los innumerables y duraderos impactos que los hispanos y latinos han tenido en la NASA y más allá: como científicos e ingenieros pioneros que dan impulso a nuestra innovación y tecnologías, emprendedores que propulsan nuestra economía, defensores del cambio político y social, y creativos que dan vida a nuestras artes y humanidades. Los animo a participar en las muchas ceremonias, actividades y programas en sus comunidades que se ofrecen este mes en honor al Mes de la Herencia Hispana.

El legado de los trabajadores hispanos y latinos de la NASA es excepcional. Mi ex compañero de tripulación y buen amigo, Franklin Chang Díaz, se convirtió en el primer astronauta hispano, así como el primer astronauta de ascendencia costarricense cuando la NASA lo seleccionó en 1980.

En la actualidad, Diana Trujillo del Laboratorio de Propulsión a Chorro en California se desempeña como supervisora del grupo técnico para la planificación y ejecución de secuencias y líder táctica para la misión Mars Perseverance. Zaida Hernández es gerente de subsistema de los sistemas de protección térmica para el módulo de servicio y sistema de aborto de lanzamiento de Orion, e ingeniera térmica para la misión VIPER de la NASA en Centro Espacial Johnson en Houston. Y Javier Ocasio-Pérez se desempeña como gerente de pruebas e integración de la misión de Demostración de relés de comunicaciones láser en el Centro de Vuelo Espacial Goddard en Maryland, solo por nombrar algunos de nuestros profesionales hispanos.

Pueden obtener más información sobre algunos de nuestro increíbles trabajadores siguiendo nuestra segunda temporada de Hispan@s de la NASA, una serie de retratos íntimos en video y perfiles escritos de profesionales hispanos de la NASA que hablan sobre sus trayectorias profesionales. Todos los videos estarán en español con subtítulos en inglés.

La NASA también está expandiendo las comunicaciones en español. Pueden seguirnos en línea a través de TwitterFacebookInstagram y YouTube.

En reconocimiento a todos los hispanos que contribuyen a la NASA y al crecimiento de nuestra nación, gracias por todo el trabajo crítico que realizan para la NASA, los Estados Unidos y el mundo.

¡Adelante y hacia arriba!

Hispanic Heritage Month and NASA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Para leer en español, haga clic aquí

Across the agency, NASA is proud to commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month – the annual observance honoring the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans – running Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

As I noted to our team in our internal message yesterday to honor the kickoff of Hispanic Heritage Month, the theme for this year is Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope. We’re all invited celebrate the countless and enduring impacts Hispanics and Latinos have made at NASA and beyond, as pioneering scientists and engineers driving our innovation and technology, entrepreneurs energizing our economy, advocates leading social and political change, and creatives bringing to life our arts and humanities. I encourage you to participate in the many ceremonies, activities, and programs in your communities offered this month in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

 The legacy of NASA’s Hispanic and Latino workforce is exceptional. My former crewmate and good friend, Franklin Chang Diaz, became the first Hispanic astronaut and first astronaut of Costa Rican descent when NASA selected him in 1980.  

 Today, Diana Trujillo at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, serves Technical Group Supervisor for Sequence Planning and Execution and a Tactical Mission Lead for the Mars Perseverance rover. Zaida Hernandez is a Thermal Protection Systems subsystem manager for Orion Launch Abort System and Service Module and a thermal engineer for NASA’s VIPER mission at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. And Javier Ocasio-Perez serves as a Laser Communication Relay Demonstration Mission Integration and Test manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, just to name a few. 

You can find out more about some of our incredible staff by following along with our second season of Hispan@s de la NASA, a series of intimate video portraits and profiles of NASA Hispanic professionals talking about their career paths. All the videos will be in Spanish with English captions.

NASA also is expanding our Spanish-language communications. You can follow us online through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

In recognition of all the Hispanics contributing to NASA and the growth of our nation, thank you for all the critical work you do for NASA, the United States, and the world.  

 Adelante y hacia arriba… Onward and upward!  

Ramping Up Humanity’s Return to the Moon

Hello, everyone!

I’m excited to launch this blog to keep you informed of all the incredible things we’re working on at NASA, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic where virtual has become many of our new normal.

Safety of the NASA workforce has remained our top priority throughout these challenging times. Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, Associate Administrator Bob Cabana, and I are immensely proud of our NASA family.

This agency has a long history of success in aviation, technology, human and robotic exploration. This year alone, it’s incredible what we’ve achieved with Perseverance, Ingenuity, commercial crew, sustainable aviation, and Artemis.

NASA kicked off a new initiative to expand and modify agency activities to remove barriers and challenges facing historically underrepresented and underserved communities. We’re also focusing our efforts in STEM engagement and other key areas critical to our nation, including helping tackle the climate emergency and advancing technologies that will benefit us here on Earth and farther into the solar system.

While we have maintained critical operations throughout the pandemic, we’re starting to see more and more of effects catchup with NASA and our partners. We know how dedicated our teams are because we’ve seen their perseverance tested time and time again. I anticipate the coming years will be no different – there’s so much ahead for the agency and our nation, especially with Artemis.

Now almost 50 years since our last Apollo mission, we’re preparing to return astronauts to the Moon. Once again, our crews will launch from Kennedy, and our Artemis astronauts will boldly explore more of the lunar surface than ever before, beginning with the lunar South Pole.

Teams at Kennedy are busy finalizing integration of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I flight test. We’re still eying their first launch by the end of the year. However, our crews on the ground are contending with rising COVID cases in Florida, weather, and first-time operations challenges, so we’ll have a better sense of timing after stacking operations are complete next month. This first uncrewed mission is close and it will set the stage for all Artemis missions to come.

Teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs prepare to integrate the launch vehicle stage adapter (LVSA) for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the massive SLS core stage on the mobile launcher in the agency’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 22, 2021.

Our long-term lunar vision calls for so much on and around the Moon this decade – and we’re not doing it alone. Together with our commercial and international partners we’ll turn science fiction into reality when we setup the Artemis Base Camp on the surface and Gateway in lunar orbit.

Of course, the key connection between orbital and surface operations will be modern commercial human landing systems (HLS). We’ve already made an award for an uncrewed and crewed demonstration landing mission under Option A contract for HLS. While there is a stay of performance for as late as Nov. 8 on that contract, our broader efforts to work with American companies on landers for Artemis missions is moving forward.

NASA announced today it has selected five companies to mature lander design concepts that will help minimize design risks and advance new technologies while we gain critical insight toward a sustainable lunar architecture. The companies are Blue Origin, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and SpaceX.

With this accelerated effort to focus our work on HLS concepts and risk reduction solutions this year, we’re priming industry to submit their proposals for regular crewed lunar transportation services next year. Those services, which call for carrying crew in a lander from Gateway in orbit to the lunar surface and back, are slated to begin in the late 2020s.

As we’ve done in low-Earth orbit with commercial crew and cargo, our goal is to be one of many customers in a rapidly growing lunar economy. Our cycle of development to operations is a success aboard the International Space Station. We’re seeing that model taking shape now at the Moon. And much of what we accomplish 240,000 miles from Earth will get us ready for our next giant leap – sending American astronauts to Mars.

It’s an honor to serve as Administrator in these extraordinary times. The years ahead will be tough – but inspiring and very, very rewarding. I hope you continue to follow NASA as we push the boundaries of human exploration farther into the solar system. And until we can shake hands, fist bump or whatever the new normal becomes after the pandemic, I hope you’ll follow along here, too.