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Climate crisis focus of NASA chief’s visit

(L-R: NASA Associate Administrator Karen Feldstein, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Valkyrie, Principal Peter Mathieson and Kristina Tamane)

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson visited the University of Edinburgh to meet staff and students and share insights about sustainability and space.

The former astronaut and US Senator – who was appointed as NASA Administrator on behalf of President Joe Biden’s administration – toured the robotics and data labs of the University’s Bayes Centre, where he met the only NASA-built humanoid robot outside the US, known as Valkyrie.

During the visit, ECCI Co-Director Dr Kate Crowley and experts from the University’s Edinburgh Earth Initiative, based at ECCI, highlighted how their work is supporting the translation of space research excellence in to managing and mitigating the effects of climate change.

The team discussed ECCI's role as a unique climate hub within the University and highlighted the breadth of interdisciplinary research and practice that the University does in terms of climate change and wider sustainability sciences, as well as discussing the challenges of alternative green energy, the need for public engagement as this progresses rapidly and the challenge of providing data to those that are most vulnerable and least able to access satellite and remotely sensed data.

Academics from the Space Innovation Hub discussed their world-class research in data, astronomy and earth observation as part of their ambition to support Edinburgh in becoming the space capital of Europe, and students from the University’s Endeavour Rocket Society shared their work to challenge the stasis in British rocketry development and to provide applied experience in aeronautics and space technologies.

ECCI-based Space Sector Business Development Lead, Kristina Tamane, said: "We were delighted to host NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and his colleagues, as well as Minister Ivan McKee to showcase the exceptional space capability of the University of Edinburgh and importantly speak about climate change and the work being done by Edinburgh Earth Initiative and the School of GeoSciences. The intention is for this to be a start of a collaboration between NASA and the University."

US Senator Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, said: "The climate crisis affects all of us — it’s all hands on deck. It was an honour to visit Edinburgh University, where scientists are leading efforts to make Scotland climate neutral and working with NASA to develop innovative climate solutions. It was also a pleasure to meet with students working on robotics, science, and rocketry. They’re members of the Artemis Generation and I can’t wait to see all that they accomplish."

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said: "It has been a privilege to welcome Administrator Nelson to the University and hear his valuable insights. The University has close links with NASA – holding the only NASA-built humanoid robot outside North America. This combined with our world-leading expertise, and the developments we are making in space sector technologies and climate science, means that my University colleagues have a crucial role to play in space exploration and also in the global fight against climate change. Senator Nelson’s visit has further cemented our relationship and will spark new ties to continue this important mission."

Space Innovation Hub

Space Innovation Hub at the University of Edinburgh - handout guide