Later, PM Narendra Modi, at a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden, said, “We have agreed to join the Artemis Accords.We have taken a new leap in our space cooperation.”
“On space, we will be able to announce that India is signing the Artemis Accords, which advance a common vision for space exploration for the benefit of all humankind,” a senior administration official has been quoted as saying by agencies.The official also said that Nasa and Isro are developing a strategic framework for human spaceflight operations this year and a joint mission to the ISS is expected next year. Ahead of Modi’s visit to the US, TOI had reported about the possibility of India joining the Artemis Accords.
Built upon the foundation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (OST), the Artemis Accords constitute a comprehensive framework of guidelines that aim to govern the exploration and utilisation of space in the modern era. While not legally binding, these principles serve as a roadmap for international collaboration in civil space endeavours.
The accords endeavour to facilitate the human return to the Moon by 2025—a pivotal step towards advancing space exploration to encompass Mars and other celestial destinations in future.
Recently, Bhavya Lal, the associate administrator for technology, policy and strategy within the office of the Nasa Administrator, recently said that there are 25 signatories to the Artemis Accords and hoped that India becomes the 26th country.
Another significant step for India is to be part of the joint Isro-Nasa mission to the International Space Station, which is a collaboration among five space agencies — Nasa (US), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). Indian astronauts have not been allowed a trip to the ISS till now.
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In fact, Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian citizen to enter space on April 3, 1984 but he flew on board Soviet rocket Soyuz T-11 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.
Though Isro has been training astronauts for India’s own maiden humanflight mission Gaganyaan, which is expected to be launched by end of 2024 or early 2025, a trip to the ISS next year will provide a good exposure to Indian astronauts and will go a long way in training desi gagannauts for the upcoming Gaganyaan mission and a future Indian space station, which is in the pipeline of Isro’s big-ticket future projects.
Isro and Nasa had been cooperating in the space sector for decades. Although India has an independent space program developed in the face of US sanctions, it benefitted from initial American help till the 1980s, and the two sides appear to have decided to resume cooperation given India’s growing reputation for frugal engineering.
Currently, Isro and Nasa are working on the world’s most expensive earth observation satellite $1.5 billion NISAR satellite project, which, when launched next year, will help in measuring the Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces and ice sheet collapses. Nasa had also sent its payload to the Moon onboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft that for the first time found concrete evidence of water on the Moon. Nasa also helped Isro in locating its Chandrayaan-2 lander when it crashlanded on the south pole side of the Moon.