As details of the civilian nuclear deal are slowly but steadily being ironed out, the scientific atmospherics are falling in place to make the visit of US President George W Bush to India a historic occasion. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has confirmed that the US will be cooperating with India in its maiden mission to the moon, the Chandrayaan I to be launched in 2008.
ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair told The Indian Express that “all modalities have been worked out and the lunar mission cooperation agreement will be inked during the visit of President Bush”.
India had offered to fly free of cost a few kilograms of scientific instruments from international collaborators. The US MiniSar was one of those selected and later another US payload, the moon mineralogy mapper, was included as part of the mission.
There were hiccups but Nair confirmed that “an agreeable text has been arrived at and a Chandrayaan specific agreement will be inked”. Both NASA and ISRO have now managed to hammer out a memorandum of understanding which clears the remaining bureaucratic hurdles for the moon mission.
Both countries, however, are still working hard on an acceptable text for the highly complex umbrella agreements called Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) and the Technology Assistance Agreement (TAA) that would allow India to commercially fly
US satellites using Indian rockets.
But Nair pointed out that “these are teething troubles which are likely to be overcome as long as there is an intention to cooperate”.
The US is being assured that “sensitive and guarded American technologies” will be protected by India with ‘‘utmost diligence’’.
Meanwhile, no movement on an Indian boarding the space shuttle
NEW DELHI: The US proposal to fly an Indian on its manned space mission programme remains just that with both sides waiting for the other to make the first move.
ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said “ISRO has not received any formal proposal from the Americans on this issue”. He said there was no question of rejecting the proposal since “even the basic working has not been initiated by the Americans”.
According to US officials, this “thanks but no thanks kind of response” from the Indian space community is “possibly because ISRO is currently focused on unmanned space exploration”.- Pallava Bagla