NASA Administrator Bill Nelson made a noteworthy diplomatic gesture on Tuesday by expressing the United States’ willingness to collaborate with the Indian space agency ISRO in the development of a dedicated space station. During his visit to India for a week of strategic engagements, Nelson disclosed that talks between the two countries also encompass the intention to send an Indian astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) before the end of the upcoming year.
“The selection of the astronauts is decided by ISRO. NASA does not make the selection,” Nelson clarified to reporters, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the project. He further expressed the willingness of the US to join forces with India to develop a space station if such ambitions arise, PTI reported.
Looking ahead to a commercial space station by 2040, Nelson said, “If India wants us to work with them, of course we’re available. But it’s from India.”
Strategic engagements across India
Nelson’s visit will include meetings with key Indian officials, starting with Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh. His agenda extends to Mumbai, where meetings are planned with business leaders in the space industry. The NASA chief will also visit the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) headquarters in Bangalore and meet the famous Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma.
A NASA statement highlighted Nelson’s visit to the facilities in Bengaluru where the NISAR spacecraft will be tested and integrated for the 2024 launch. The NISAR mission is a joint Earth observation effort between NASA and ISRO.
After his time in India, Nelson will continue to the United Arab Emirates to attend the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the first time a NASA executive has attended the conference. With this, NASA aims to emphasize its global leadership in providing important geographic information to decision makers.
Nelson shared his excitement about his visit to India upon his arrival by tweeting, “Touchdown in India! Ready to begin a week of engaging meetings and events to grow NASA’s partnership with ISRO. India is a leader in space and we’re looking forward to a productive visit.”
The week’s program is packed with high-level discussions covering various areas of collaboration, including human research, geographic initiatives and technological innovation. A major highlight will be Nelson’s visit to the NISAR spacecraft facilities in Bengaluru, which will provide a first-hand look at the progress of the joint NASA-ISRO Earth observation mission.