Indian, US space officials discuss human space exploration

Arul Louis-

Indian and US space officials have discussed human space exploration at a two-day meeting in Washington, according to the US State Department.

At the eighth meeting of the US-India Civil Space Joint Working Group (CSJWG) meeting on Monday and Tuesday, discussions also covered collaboration in earth and space science as well as global navigation satellite systems, spaceflight safety and space situational awareness, and policies for commercial space activities, the Department said.

The meeting was co-chaired by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jennifer R. Littlejohn and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Associate Administrator Karen Feldstein on the US side and by Shantanu Bhatawdekar, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Scientific Secretary on the Indian side.

A highlight of the NASA-ISRO cooperation is the Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, planned for next year.

It is expected to systematically map earth, using two different radar frequencies to monitor resources such as water, forests and agriculture.

It will provide information about ecosystems, the earth’s surface, natural hazards, sea level rise and the cryosphere, the frozen parts of the earth, with applications in forestry, agriculture and ecology.

According to NASA, it will also help with providing prompt responses to natural and human-created disasters.

NASA Head Bill Nelson and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, Chirag Parikh gave the welcoming remarks for the meeting and ISRO Chairman S. Somanath and Taranjit Singh Sandhu spoke at the meeting.

Details of the discussion on cooperation on human space exploration were not released.

While astronauts from several countries, including Saudi Arabia, have flown on NASA space missions, but none from India, which has plans for a manned space expedition to be launched as early as next year on board the Gaganyaan spacecraft.

Four Air Force fighter pilots have been trained in Russia under an agreement with Glavkosmos for the mission.

The only Indian citizen to have been in outer space is Rakesh Sharma, a former Air Force officer who flew on a Soviet Soyuz mission in 1984.

But four Indian-Americans have been on space missions.

Those who flew on NASA missions are Kalpana Chawla, who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, Sunita Williams and Raja Chari.

Sirisha Bandla flew on a very brief private sector Virgin Galactic test flight in 2021.

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