Page 65 - IACC Newsletter August-September 2013 Issue 13

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The tide is now turning. The current Administrator of NASA General Charles Bolden gave an extended exclusive
interview to Pallava Bagla at NASA headquarters, and explained how NASA was supporting India’s upcoming maiden
mission to Mars, hoping to make “spy satellites” together
and how the two agencies hope to make saving life on earth a
priority by together capturing and nudging away earth-threatening celestial asteroids which have the capacity to
annihilate all life on earth.
You have an Indian mission to Mars later this year called Mangalyaan. You also have the upcoming MAVEN mission
from NASA. Both are missions to study the atmosphere of Mars. Is it exciting to have two countries independently
and simultaneously going to Mars?
It’s always exciting to have as many countries as possible participating in exploration efforts, particularly in Mars. We
were there with Curiosity, and we were able to carry along five other nations with us. It is exciting to have the United
States and India join together and now getting ready to do more studies on Mars’s atmosphere with MAVEN (Mars
Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) that we are launching later in November looking at the upper atmosphere of Mars,
a place that we don’t know a lot about. The Indian mission is also going to be looking at Martian atmosphere. We’re
providing support through communications, data and other types of telemetry.
So NASA is supporting India in the mission?
We are in partnership. We’re providing communication support as well as navigation support, so it is fantastic.
If you look at the Indian programme, the first rocket which was fired from India, the Nike Apache, was an American
rocket. The first commercial communication
satellite — INSAT-1A — was made and launched in America. After that
came the nuclear explosions which strained the relationship between both countries, and there was a long hiatus. Do
you feel sad that there was a long hiatus in the space ties between the two countries?
That was history and what I think is most important is that the two countries have been able to get back on track to
working together. We need to collectively show that democracies get things done much more effectively than other
forms of government, and the fact that with common goals and aspirations, the world’s oldest and largest democracies
democracy can work together. If you look at what we have done co-cooperatively, India and the U.S. participated
together on Chandrayaan-1, orbiting the moon, and gathering data. Chandrayaan-1 discovered significant amounts of
water on the lunar surface.
India’s space agency works on a shoestring annual budget of $ 1 billion. In contrast, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover alone
cost about $ 2 billion. You've visited some of these facilities in ISRO. What was your impression of the personnel and
the facilities?
Recently I went to Delhi and then to Ahmedabad; it was an incredible experience to visit the ISRO’s *Space Application+
Centre and to look at the satellites that were under construction and the missions that were in planning and to look at
the commonality between the things that we do in the field of science — in environmental science, for instance, looking
at water issues. I was very impressed with the facilities, I got a chance to see 2 or 3 different clean rooms and look at 3
different types of missions under construction right now, and it was an impressive operation.
I also understand NASA is forbidden by law from working with China?
Yes.
On the Indo-U.S. space exploration front, there seems to be a thawing of relations. You’re looking at making a
Radarsat (in lay parlance it is referred as
a spy satellite machine with day and night-viewing capability) together.
What is the status of that mission?