Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA on his recent trip to New Delhi announced that NASA will be working closely with ISRO to train and place an Indian astronaut on the ISS soon, and they will also help in setting up India’s own Space Station by 2035
NASA is set to train an Indian astronaut for an upcoming mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by the close of 2024, as announced by Bill Nelson, the administrator of the US space agency, during his visit to Delhi. Emphasizing India’s potential as a “great future partner,” Nelson expressed the United States’ openness to cooperating on the development of an Indian Space Station.
During a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi, the call for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists to establish an Indian Space Station by 2035 and to send an Indian astronaut to the moon by 2040 was reiterated. Nelson indicated that the US plans to de-orbit its space station in 2031 and anticipates the presence of commercial space stations by then. He affirmed the US’s willingness to provide counsel or collaboration if India seeks assistance.
Nelson highlighted the NISAR satellite program as another significant outcome of the India-US collaboration, scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2024. According to the agreement between the two space agencies, NASA will assist in training an Indian astronaut, selected by ISRO, who will embark on the ISS mission by the end of 2024. The selected astronaut is likely to be chosen from the pool of four individuals who have undergone basic space astronaut training in preparation for the Gaganyaan mission.
The specifics of the two-week-long mission’s science objectives will be determined by India, as Nelson stressed the importance of the Indian astronaut having the autonomy to focus on scientific research that aligns with India’s priorities.
Following a meeting between Nelson and Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh, a joint working group comprising representatives from both space agencies is exploring collaboration on various fronts, including radiation impact studies, micro-meteorite and orbital debris shield studies, and space health and medicine aspects. An implementing arrangement for ISRO-NASA collaborations has been established and is currently undergoing inter-governmental approvals, as per a statement from the Department of Space.