NASA Has Renewed Emphasis On Practical Science Applications

NASA is seeing a “renewed emphasis” on practical applications of science under the Biden administration, says Gavin Schmidt on Friday.

NASA is seeing a “renewed emphasis” on practical applications of science under the Biden administration, the agency’s acting senior climate advisor Gavin Schmidt said Friday.

“The federal government doesn’t pivot on a dial quite as much as one thinks it should sometimes, but I think there is this renewed emphasis on making sure that the science that is being done is being done in the service of practical things that we need to be doing,” Schmidt, who is also director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said in an interview.

He added that when the agency needs to work on making its projections include real-world impacts.

“We want to know that the impact of that policy or not that policy would be on not just climate, but also air quality and also public health and also ecosystems,” he said. “We haven’t done that to the extent that we really could be.”

The climate advisor role was created in February, and its duties include providing recommendations for agency leadership on climate-related science, technology and infrastructure programs. The advisor will also advocate for NASA climate investments in the government at large.

Schmidt said he’s just in the role in an acting capacity for now, because the agency didn’t want to do anything permanent before its leadership was established.

On Friday, President Biden officially nominated former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) to lead NASA.

Schmidt said that areas that have already been part of the agency’s climate portfolio include trying to reduce flight emissions and capturing carbon that’s emitted into the air.

“We’ve been doing stuff in aeronautics in terms of more efficient flying, we’ve been doing stuff with biofuels to get emissions down,” he said. “We’ve been doing stuff on direct air capture which turns out to be important for the space station but maybe that can be extended to [a] larger scale.”

He added that NASA’s aeronautics division is working on engine fuel efficiency and “sketching out how you might get to 50 percent cuts in airline fuel to eventually none.”

Asked about applications to commercial aviation, Schmidt said, “It’s not quite as simple as NASA has an idea and then suddenly next week everybody’s applying it.”

“Getting innovations into the private sector is something actually that NASA has been historically been quite good at, but these things take work. You have to make sure that the technology is applicable, that it’s affordable, that it’s appropriate for the broader needs.”

Originally published at The Hill

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