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Harris talks with space station astronauts, introduces new initiatives

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to the International Space Station while visiting NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Friday. Photo by Adam Davis/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/37788503c03bbdc2b4eec2ce61db4046/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to the International Space Station while visiting NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Friday. Photo by Adam Davis/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to astronauts serving on the International Space Station on Friday as she convened the meeting of the National Space Council at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

In the call, Harris talked about the importance of protecting Earth and joining forces to meet other space initiatives. She is the chair of the council.

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"Tell us what you are learning on the space station that is helping us be smarter around how we take care of Earth," Harris said to Expedition 67 astronauts Jessica Watkins, Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hinds, according to Space.com.

Before the meeting, Harris toured the space center, including the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, at which spaceflight crews and their support personnel receive training on high-fidelity hardware for real-time mission support.

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The facility contains mockups of the space station, Orion capslue and commercial vehicle mockups, as well as part-task trainers and rack interfaces, a precision air bearing floor and a partial gravity simulator.

Watkins discussed experiments that help scientists grow plants without soil, something that can be helpful on Earth, along with research on cell aging.

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Harris announced a new coalition of space companies that will focus on increasing the space industry's capacity to meet the rising demand for the skilled technical workforce. The new coalition's work will start next month.

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Blue Origin, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman are participating in the new partnership.

Other industry partners will include Amazon, Jacobs, L3Harris, Planet Labs PBC, Rocket Lab, Sierra Space, Space X and Virgin Orbit, and will be joined by the Florida Space Coast Consortium apprenticeship program.

"In order to address the challenges of today and prepare for the discoveries of tomorrow, the country needs a skilled and diverse space workforce," the White House said in a statement Friday.

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