US space agency Nasa will train an Indian astronaut for a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2024, Bill Nelson, the agency’s administrator, said on Tuesday.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US earlier this year, the two sides had agreed to launch a two-week joint India-US Space flight next year.
In his meeting with Union minister Jitendra Singh, Nelson urged the latter to expedite the program, a government statement said
“It was part of the agreement …. that Nasa will help train an Indian astronaut and that astronaut will fly to the International Space Station at the end of 2024,” Nelson said after the meeting, adding that India would decide the science objectives for the mission..
“I just had a discussion with the minister of science on what the Indian astronaut would do on the space station. Things that are important to India in scientific research, the Indian astronaut ought to have the choice to do that,” Nelson added.
The astronaut would be selected by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) from among the four persons who have taken basic training in preparation for the Gaganyaan, India’s manned space mission.
In the meeting with Singh, Nelson discussed other aspects of the Isro-Nasa partnership, including the joint microwave remote sensing satellite for Earth observation, named Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR). India and the US will launch NISAR onboard GSLV in the first quarter of next year, a statement by the department of space said.
Data from NISAR will be highly suitable for studying the land ecosystems, deformation of solid earth, mountain and polar cryosphere, sea ice, and coastal oceans in regional to global scale, the statement said.
Nasa would also be open to collaborating with Isro on the planned Indian Space Station, Nelson said. Modi has directed Isro to aim to set up an Indian space station by 2035 and to send the first Indian to the moon by 2040.
“We are going to de-orbit our space station in 2031. We expect by that time to have commercial space stations. If India wants us to counsel or collaborate with them, of course, we would be willing to,” he said.
Isro and Nasa have also formed a joint working group on human spaceflight cooperation and are exploring cooperation in radiation impact studies, micrometeorite and orbital debris shield studies, and space health and medicine aspects. Isro is also exploring the feasibility of utilizing Nasa’s Hypervelocity Impact Test (HVIT) facility for testing Gaganyaan module micrometeoroid and orbital debris (MMOD) protection shields.
Nelson, who arrived in Delhi on Monday, will meet key government officials and stakeholders to discuss bilateral cooperation across a broad range of innovation and research-related areas.
“Touchdown in India! Ready to embark on 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,” Nelson said on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday.
The Nasa chief was scheduled to visit the Isro headquarters in Bangalore and also meet Indian cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma.
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