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New Waves of International Cooperation
Q. What are your prospects for cooperation with Japan?

Moon Explorer KAGUYA
Moon Explorer KAGUYA

Our experience with Japanese scientists goes back to the 1960s, when we had the Thumba Equatorial Rocket launching station. It had a very unique location near the equator for launching our rockets. Many Japanese scientists, especially from Tokyo University, used to come here to conduct experiments jointly with Indian scientists. That was a very good beginning. Since those days we have not had very strong contacts, but recently, looking at the Japanese space program, the advances that you have achieved in Japan, and also the common interests of our two scientific communities, we are making a conscious effort to strengthen our relationship with JAXA. If we can establish close ties with Japan, it will give us a giant platform for space development. And also, it will make practical projects possible such as Sentinel Asia, which is going to benefit not only the people of Japan and India, but everyone in the Asia-Pacific region.
Japan has successfully launched its moon orbiter KAGUYA, and I must tell you it's a very unique mission. Japan has taken a really good technological lead in conceiving the satellite and launching it. I wish you good success in this mission. On the other side, definitely, we would like to look at the data. What can we find out from KAGUYA's data? Our scientists would be studying that. In our case, our ground tracking station for the moon orbiter Chandrayaan will be available for operation by the end of this year. In case KAGUYA needs some additional tracking support from ground stations, we would like to provide this from our own station.
As I mentioned earlier, space science and space exploration are becoming very complex, and at the same time very interesting. India and Japan have very much in common in the space science field. So, it is high time that Japan and India joined hands and embarked on common scientific exploration of space, and also sharing technology and knowledge between the two countries. International cooperation between Japan and India will set a very good example for other countries to follow.

Q. What are your views on China's space program?

Madhavan Nair

Well, the Chinese have gone on their own in space exploration, just like India. They also have their own program of building rockets and satellites, and of course they have taken a lead in manned missions. I appreciate their achievements so far. At the same time, as time goes on, there will be opportunities for various nations to cooperate in space ventures, and we are always open to such possibilities. So we would like to discuss and cooperate with the Chinese scientific community just like we do with JAXA. As a beginning, we are providing the earth observation data from Indian satellites to Chinese users. There is a ground station near Beijing that is receiving the ISRO data. And also, we have exchanged delegations between China and India to explore common avenues for cooperation.
But so far, we do not have very close contact in this area. We're looking forward to closer cooperation with the Chinese.

For the Future of Mankind
Q. What significance does space exploration have for mankind?

Madhavan Nair

I think men have always been adventurous. They want to explore the unknown, and space is going to be the next frontier for exploration. So people are going to be in space in the coming years. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were to be a manned base on the moon, which will become an intermediate base for planetary exploration. There could also be an observatory for monitoring the Earth, or for astronomical observations, and space ports could be established on the moon for travels to other planets in the solar system and beyond, or for sending satellites into deep space. All this becomes the next challenge for humanity. And towards that, we need to think about space in a new context. For one thing, we would have to establish living habitats in the enormous hostile environment of space, and try to build factories that can produce rockets, robots, etc. outside planet Earth. So these are going to be the challenges for the future, and we in India hope to contribute to mankind through our space development programs.
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