Did you know that India has been lifting satellites into orbit for more than 30 years? Or that India has the second largest fleet of satellites dedicated to earth sciences and earth observation after the United States? Given these burgeoning capabilities and the United States' storied history of space exploration and space science, it only seems natural that the world's largest and the world's oldest democracies would cooperate in space for the benefit of people in both our countries and around the world.
I was delighted to join officials from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs when they traveled to the headquarters of India's space agency, ISRO, in Bangalore, July 13-14, to identify new opportunities for cooperation. While the discussions of the projects drilled deep down into technical matters (radio occulation or scatterometry anyone?), the results flowing from the joint cooperation were easy to grasp.
Through exploring possible joint experiments on the International Space Station and looking for additional opportunities to cooperate in space exploration and human space flight, the United States and India hope to expand the frontiers of scientific understanding. At the same time, scientists in the two countries are harnessing satellite data on weather and climate patterns to enhance our scientific models and improve agricultural forecasting, providing tangible benefits for farmers all over the world.
U.S.-India space cooperation may have only begun in earnest during the last decade, but we have already seen the relationship bear fruit and produce important new discoveries. For instance, in the successful 2009 Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission an ISRO rocket and lunar probe carried a NASA instrument to the lunar surface, allowing scientists to confirm the presence of water on the moon for the first time. With the scientific expertise and spirit of cooperation both the United States and India bring to the table, the possibilities of cooperation between the two nations in space are, as President Obama and Prime Minister Singh noted in November 2010, truly without boundaries and limits.