Biden administration renews mandate for National Space Council

President Biden speaks with members of the Perseverance rover team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on March 4. Credit: White House photo by Adam Schultz

President Biden will renew the National Space Council, a space policy group revived by the Trump White House after 25 years of dormancy, to assist in “generating national space policies, strategies, and synchronizing America’s space activities,” an administration spokesman said Monday.

A spokesman for the National Security Council said the Biden administration is renewing the National Space Council “at a time of unprecedented activity and opportunity generated by America’s activities in space.”

The Biden administration’s decision to continue the National Space Council was first reported by Politico.

“While we are still working details, we will tailor the council to ensure we have representation that can address the priorities of the administration — such as space-related science and technologies, space exploration, solutions to address climate change, ensuring economic and educational opportunities, building partnerships, cementing norms of behaviors in space, and addressing matters of national security efforts in space,” the spokesman said in response to an inquiry from Spaceflight Now. “This is not an all-inclusive list.”

Former President Donald Trump revived the National Space Council in 2017 under the leadership of then-Vice President Mike Pence.

The Trump White House named several Cabinet officials, the NASA administrator, the national security advisor, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the National Space Council, fusing interests of civilian space policy, space exploration, and national security. The council’s public meetings were largely scripted and included pre-approved policy announcements from the Trump administration, such as Pence’s announcement in 2019 that NASA should attempt to land U.S. astronauts on the moon before the end of 2024.

The announcement spawned NASA’s Artemis moon program, but the 2024 schedule goal was already slipping away before the end of the Trump administration. Jen Psaki, Biden’s White House press secretary, said last month the administration supports the continuation of the Artemis program, but officials have not set a new timetable for a human lunar landing.

The Biden administration has not said who will chair the renewed National Space Council going forward. The White House also did not name what officials will be part of the group.

Earlier this month, President Biden nominated former Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, to be the next NASA chief. His nomination is pending a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate.

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, an advocacy group formed by space industry companies, issued a statement supporting the Biden administration’s decision to continue the National Space Council.

“Sustained coordination across multiple federal agencies through the National Space Council will ensure the United States can effectively address existing and emerging issues in space,” the coalition said.

“A whole-of-government approach through a body such as the Space Council, with clear objectives stemming from the White House and informed by the broader community, will provide the necessary forum to ensure the continued coordination of space policy,” said Andrew Allen, a former astronaut and the coalition’s acting president and CEO.

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