Dr. Nicola “Nicky” Fox, associate administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate-NASA Headquarters, NASA Earth Science Director Dr. Karen M. St Germain with students at the Boeing National Aeromodelling Competition in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
| Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR

Dr. Nicola Fox

Dr. Nicola Fox
| Photo Credit:

Dr. Nicola “Nicky” Fox, associate administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate

Dr. Nicola “Nicky” Fox, associate administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate-NASA Headquarters, who is on a visit to India to review the upcoming NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) project spoke to The Hindu on the sidelines of a student outreach event in Bengaluru on whole range of topics ranging from the NISAR mission to sending an Indian astronaut to the International Space Station later this year.

Q. Dr. Fox, what brings you to India and in particular to Bengaluru?

A. This is my very first trip to India and I am very excited to be here. We are here celebrating the partnership between NASA and ISRO on our big flagship mission the NISAR mission and I am really looking forward tomorrow to meeting with NISAR team when I visit the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre and honestly seeing the spacecraft in the clean room is always a very inspiring thing to do, to see a piece of technology which is about to go to space so I am excited about that. And then of course talking about the ways the two agencies interact in a whole round of not just science but also in astrophysics, heliophysics and in planetary so kind of getting to talk about the ways the agencies are collaborating together.

Q. How is the NISAR project progressing? When is the launch scheduled to take place?

A. NISAR is progressing very well. So as I said I will be seeing it in the clean room. We are in the final phase before launch where you are testing and making sure that everything is perfect because of course if anything has an issue you want to identify that when it is still on the ground and not when it is in space because it is easy fix on the ground it is hard to fix in space so we are doing all of those final checks and progressing hopefully to launch later this year. We don’t have a specific date (for the launch) yet. We are still in the final testing and verifying everything is perfect but as soon as that spacecraft is ready then we will have a launch date.

Q. Are you meeting ISRO Officials, visiting any of the centres?

A. We are meeting the Secretary of Space and we are really looking forward to that and again talking about the way the agencies are interacting.

Q. India signed the Artemis Accords last year and NASA will be training an Indian astronaut for a mission to the International Space Station by the end of 2024. Can you share some light on this, how is this progressing?

A. Of course we are all excited to hear ISRO announce the selection of the four astronaut candidates so that is always a really great thing and we are very much looking to work with ISRO to further that and get the astronaut into space. If things go according to the plan, obviously there is training and various things that have to happen but just looking forward to ISRO making those decisions and moving ahead with that training.

Q. Any other space collaborations with India on the pipeline will be discussed with ISRO during your visit?

A. We will sort of be talking about the ongoing ones. I am a heliophysicist so I am very excited about the Aditya-LI missions and we have a total solar eclipse that will be happening in the US in April and we have 18 missions that are focusing and taking data of the Sun during that eclipse and we are really excited that the Aditya-LI will be doing the same thing and joining in so that we can pool all of that data together so that is obviously something that I am very excited about. Also talking about Chandrayaan-3 the fact that we had a Laser Retroreflector Array on there we were able to ping it so that is another great collaboration and of course we are looking forward to Chandrayaan-4 and how we can work together on our lunar studies as well.

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