NASA will train an Indian astronaut for a trip to the International Space Station as early as next year, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Wednesday, amid deepening space ties between India and the United States.
“There is an opportunity to share science,” Nelson said, speaking at an event in Bangalore, where he is due to inspect the NISAR satellite on Thursday.
NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) is a low Earth orbit observatory developed jointly by NASA and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization). Roughly the size of an SUV, the satellite is due to launch from India in the first quarter of next year, with a target for a January launch.
NISAR will map the entire planet once every 12 days, providing data to understand changes in ecosystems, ice mass, plant biomass, sea level rise, groundwater and natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis , volcanoes and landslides.
India aims to quintuple its share of the global satellite launch market within the next decade and agreed to join NASA’s Artemis Agreements in June this year.
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The agreements aim to clarify and modernize the principles of the widely ratified 1967 Outer Space Treaty, urging scientific transparency and establishing coordination rules to avoid harmful interventions in space and on the moon.
India in August won a race to reach the Moon’s south pole against Russia after the Russian Luna-25 lander crashed from orbit. With Western sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine, the country may struggle to finance a successor.
China, which made the first soft landing on the far side of the moon in 2019, also plans more missions after spending $12 billion on its space program in 2022, according to estimates. The US, meanwhile, is on track to spend about $93 billion on the Artemis moon program by 2025.
“This is the golden age of space exploration,” Nelson said at Wednesday’s event.
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