Sunita backs role for Indians in Nasa crew programme

Sunita backs role for Indians in Nasa crew programme

Sunita backs role for Indians in Nasa crew programme

Indian-origin American astronaut Sunita Williams on Friday encouraged Indian students and startups to participate in the Nasa commercial crew programme, provided a favourable policy is created by the United States.

“The commercial crew programme of  the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) would take people to the low earth orbit. The competition is open to the US companies. But people from all over the world should participate and it’s up to people in the United States to create such a policy,” Sunita said at the ORF Kalpana Chawla annual space policy dialogue here.

Nasa’s commercial crew programme – meant for developing commercial space transportation to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station – is so far limited to American companies.

Though it is not clear if the Obama administration would open the programme to people from other parts of the world, US ambassador Richard Verma hinted at more Indo-US collaboration to explore Mars and beyond.

Sunita was in Delhi for two days as a part of US-India engagement in space.

She interacted with students, participated in FICCI conference and gave a brief talk at the ORF space conference in which she asked the kids to live by the dreams of Kalpana Chawla, another Indian-origin Nasa astronaut who died in 1997 space accident.

Williams also shared her impressive experiences from record winning seven spacewalks and asked students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics as more opportunities, particularly for girls, were coming up.

“When I had joined the US Naval Academy, there were only 10 per cent women in the school, but over the years the number has increased significantly and now women occupy 20 per cent seats at the academy,” she said, adding that Nasa  was looking out for young engineers and keen on having young and feisty females in its ranks.