Press Release

Chairman Babin Opening Statement The Great American Eclipse: To Totality and Beyond

By SpaceRef Editor
September 28, 2017
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U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Space, delivered the following opening statement today at the Joint Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Space hearing, The Great American Eclipse: To Totality and Beyond. Today’s witnesses are Dr. James Ulvestad, assistant director (acting), Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences, National Science Foundation; Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA; Dr. Heidi Hammel, executive vice president, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy; Dr. Matthew Penn, astronomer, National Solar Observatory; and Ms. Michelle Nichols-Yehling, director of public observing, Adler Planetarium. As prepared for delivery:

I want to start by thanking our colleagues on the research and technology subcommittee for hosting this joint hearing. The eclipse was an amazing and exciting event, and I look forward to our discussion.

Something that struck me about this eclipse is the level of excitement it generated all across the country. In a time when the country seems locked in controversy and division, the eclipse was something that brought all of us together in awe and wonder.

NASA’s web traffic during the eclipse skyrocketed; it peaked at a level seven times higher than its previous record. The traffic set new records for overall government web traffic, according to the GSA’s Digital Analytics Program. The eclipse’s online viewing audience compared with the audience for the Superbowl. Even Netflix lost about 10 percent of the day’s viewership to the eclipse.

Schools across the country incorporated the eclipse into teaching programs. There is no telling how the eclipse sparked the imagination of schoolchildren, or which school experiments might have captured critical scientific data.

The eclipse was also one of those rare, wonderful events that was as exciting to the scientific community as it was the person on the street.

Beyond the dozens of citizen science experiments  which I hope we can hear about today  scientists in government and academia were able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. Researchers carried out numerous of experiments and studies in fields from astronomy, to meteorology, to animal behavior during the eclipse.

This combination of public excitement, scientific benefit and, even more importantly, inspiration to our youth brings to mind an interesting comparison. In a way, the 2017 solar eclipse was almost like a space mission brought to our nation’s backyard.

Instead of looking outward to see something amazing, something amazing came to us. This makes the public response a cause for optimism. The eclipse proved that wonder and awe can still bring us together. It proved that the public, particularly our children, can get involved in science and be excited by new discoveries. That in a time of distraction and controversy, the majesty of nature can still outperform us all.

I am excited about the upcoming 2024 eclipse. Which, in my opinion, could even be more impressive and awe-inspiring. Not least, because the path of totality for the eclipse travels right through my home state, the great State of Texas.

I thank you all for your testimony and I look forward to the discussion.

SpaceRef staff editor.