Bill Nelson Tours India to Discuss Space Collaboration

Bill Nelson and Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to fly to space. Image: Bill Nelson Twitter

Bill Nelson’s world tour has touched down in India. 

On Monday, the NASA chief landed in the newly minted Moon-faring nation, where he has been making rounds with high-ranking officials. The trip, which builds on space agreements announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit in June, emphasizes space tech and research collaboration, with a focus on human exploration and Earth science.

What’s gone down so far?

  • Astronauts: Nelson is calling on India to accelerate planning to send a private Indian astronaut to the ISS on Crew Dragon next year.
  • Space station: NASA is offering to lend a hand in constructing an Indian space station. 
  • Industry partners: India is discussing working with US commercial space players,  including Boeing, Blue Origin, and Voyager. 

The centerpiece of Nelson’s trip is a visit to a Bengaluru facility where the joint US-India NISAR satellite is being tested. 

NISAR 101: NISAR is the first shared satellite mission between the two countries. Slated for a 2024 launch aboard India’s GSLV rocket, the bird will collect data on our planet’s environment, landscapes, and ice masses. The insights gained from analyzing the data will be used to address climate change, disaster management, and agriculture challenges.

India on a roll: India’s space agency has been making a name for themselves this year, nailing a number of significant spaceflight milestones. In August, India landed its Chandrayaan-3 mission near the lunar south pole. Then, just last month, ISRO successfully tested its crew escape system—a key step toward one day ferrying its astronauts to space.

Not done yet: With momentum and national space fervor in its sails, India has set its space aspirations even higher with a two-decade agenda that includes: 

  • Launching an Indian space station by 2035
  • Sending astronauts to the Moon by 2040 
  • Sending spacecraft to Venus and Mars 

With China and Russia teamed up, the US is eager to strengthen its bonds with India as it emerges as a global space power. 

Next stop: After his visit to India, Nelson will head to Dubai for the first meeting of space agency leaders at the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties.

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