Nasa will train an Indian astronaut for a voyage to the International Space Station as early as next year, the US space agency’s Administrator Bill Nelson said on Wednesday, amid deepening space ties between the two countries.
“There is an opportunity to share science,” Mr Nelson said, speaking at an event in Bengaluru, where he was due to inspect the Nisar satellite yesterday.
NASA-ISRO SAR (Nisar) is a low-Earth orbit observatory system jointly developed by Nasa and the Indian Space Research Organisation. Roughly the size of an SUV, the satellite is set to be launched from India in the first quarter of next year, with a target launch set for January.
Nisar will map the entire planet once every 12 days, providing data for understanding changes in ecosystems, ice mass, vegetation biomass, sea level rise, groundwater and natural hazards including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and landslides.
India is aiming to increase its share of the global satellite launch market fivefold within the next decade, and agreed to join Nasa’s Artemis Accords in June this year.
The accords aim to clarify and modernise principles of the widely ratified 1967 Outer Space Treaty by urging scientific transparency and establishing rules of coordination to avoid harmful interference in space and on the moon.
India in August won a race to reach the south pole of the moon against Russia after the latter’s Luna-25 lander crashed.
With Western sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine, Moscow might find it difficult to fund a successor.
China, which made the first soft landing on the far side of the moon in 2019, has more missions planned as well, having spent US$12 billion on its space programme in 2022, according to estimates.
The US, meanwhile, is on track to spend roughly US$93 billion on its Artemis moon programme through 2025.
“This is the golden age of space exploration,” Mr Nelson said at the event.
He also addressed a group of students in Bengaluru, with special guest Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to venture into space, also in attendance.
The gathering turned into a beacon of motivation as Mr Sharma shared his extraordinary journey. His narrative not only captivated the audience but also served as a testament to the boundless possibilities that space exploration holds for future generations.
The Nasa chief encouraged the youth, who are part of what he termed the “Artemis Generation,” to work hard, dream big, and reach for the stars. “The universe is the limit,” he said.