Can PM Modi Be India’s Next Astronaut? What NASA Chief Said

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Can PM Modi Be India's Next Astronaut? What NASA Chief Said

NDTV spoke to NASA chief Bill Nelson, also a senator

New Delhi:

Flying into space is a valuable experience for any politician, NASA chief Bill Nelson, who is also a senator, has told NDTV. The US space agency will train an Indian astronaut to fly to the International Space Station at the end of next year for a two-week scientific mission.

Asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi could be an astronaut, Mr Nelson, who is currently visiting India, pointed out that he had flown on a space shuttle as a politician and PM Modi is a “space aficionado”.

“Flying into space is a valuable experience for any politician, much more so for a head of state… From space, there are no political boundaries, no religious boundaries or racial boundaries… One is a citizen of Earth,” he added.

India, he said, has to “determine its role in the Artemis Programme,” which is a project to live on Moon to prepare for human missions to Mars.

NASA is planning to send the first woman and the first person of colour on the Moon as part of this project.

India, he said, can be an “active partner as we venture in the cosmos as star sailors on the cosmic sea”.  

Asked what NASA’s expectation from India are for the Artemis project, Mr Nelson said there will be a lot of opportunities for international cooperation on moon missions and the specifics are yet to be decided.  

Asked if it can happen without the Indian space agency’s cooperation, he said future moon missions will be “with commercial partners and international partners”.  

The US is going to the moon and then to Mars “for sustained presence,” he said.  A lot of nations are interested in collaborations, he added.

This would be NASA astronauts’ first visit to the moon in nearly 50 years. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin were the first men to land on Moon in 1969.

More specific than the Artemis programme is the NISAR satellite or the “NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite”. This satellite will become crucial to survival on earth because of the composite 3D images of the planet it will send.

The satellite, operated under NASA-ISRO equal partnership, will lift off from Sriharikota in the first quarter of 2024. The satellite will monitor climate change and earth deformation.

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