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During Central Coast visit, Vice President calls for global ban on satellite killer missile testing

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Lance Orozco
/
KCLU
Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at Vandenberg Space Force Base Monday night.

Kamala Harris says U.S. is first to pledge not to conduct these tests; she says past tests by Russia and China have created dangerous orbiting debris fields.

The Vice President’s plane only touched down for three hours on the Central Coast, but she made international headlines during her visit.

Kamala Harris announced the United States will push for an international ban on tests involving the destruction of satellites. Harris says missile tests by Russia last November, and one by China a few years ago have created dangerous orbiting debris fields.

"Russia launched a missile to destroy a satellite in space," said Harris. "In 2007, China conducted a similar test. These tests are reckless, and irresponsible."

Harris received a briefing from some U.S. Space Force leaders at Vandenberg Space Force Base before speaking to hundreds of service members. She says the two tests created thousands of pieces of potentially dangerous floating debris.

"When China and Russia destroyed their respective satellites, it generated thousands of pieces of debris," said the Vice President. "Debris, that will now orbit our earth for years, if not decades."

Harris says even a small piece of debris traveling at high speed has the explosive potential for disaster.

"A piece of space debris the size of a basketball which travels at thousands of miles an hour would destroy a satellite," said Harris.

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Lance Orozco
/
KCLU
The Vice President spoke for about 20 minutes at Vandenberg Space Force base, making a major announcement about U.S. efforts to curb testing of anti-satellite missiles.

The Vice President says the loss of a key satellite to a debris hit could impact information, and services in our daily lives we take for granted like the daily weather forecast, or GPS driving directions.

But, Harris also alluded that Russia, and China’s interests in being able to take out a satellite is an effort to counter U.S. military satellite capabilities.

The Vice President says the U.S. is pledging not to conduct physical satellite knockout tests, and is hoping to get other nations, including Russia and China, to join in the effort.

"As of today, the United States commits not to conduct destructive direct ascent anti-satellite missile testing," said Harris. "Simply put, these tests are dangerous, and we will not conduct them. We are the first nation to make such a commitment."

Some space experts say the motivation for Russia and China to sign on is simple. Space debris also poses a threat to their satellite networks.

The proposal drew quick criticism from some Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, who questioned whether it would really do anything to discourage further satellite busting tests by Russia and China.

The Vice President says the Biden Administration is also pushing a broader proposal which calls for setting international standards for peaceful space exploration.

After her brief, but headline-making appearance in Santa Barbara County, the Vice President flew to Los Angeles for a Monday night Democratic party fundraiser.