With a new global space alliance on the cards, the question is what will be India's response? It will be of particicular significance to India because the alliance consists of the US, Russia and China---all three having an interest in this country. Now, a stronger Sino-US space colloboration is on the cards, with Nasa'a adminstrator, Charles Bolden's visit to China between October 16 and 21.
Though the exact area of the Sino-US tie up is yet to be announced, Space News, a well known space web site, speculates that one of the areas of possible co-operation could be joint manned space missions and also China's participation in the International Space Station (ISS) programme. Infact last week when I was watching the IAC-2010 heads of states presentation on Youtube, space agency leaders were asked by the delegates about their response to China's participation in the ISS. They appeared non committal or made only some general and vague observations saying very diplomatically that it was a ``good idea,'' and so on. It seemed that they were unsure about China's plans and preferred not to be in its bad books---including a mighty space power like the US!
But, White House officials have been quoted as saying that the issue of a firm Sino-Us space relationship is very complex and challenging because it touches on critical issues like more transparency in the Chinese space programme and non-proliferation questions.
Speculation is that Bolden's visit can perhaps lay the initial ground for an American astronaut to fly in the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft during the next five years. The Europeans and Russians are willing to co-operate with China at the ISS. One wonders whether, therefore, whether Bolden's forthcoming trip to Beijing will result in an US foreign policy shift.
Bolden's visit infact comes on the eve of US President Barack Obama's trip to India in the first week of November. In this background Indian space and political analysts are asking whether the President's visit will possibly result in an announcement of a further enhancement of Indo-Us space ties. A tie up in a manned mission seems definately out of the question with just two Nasa space shuttle space flights left. Where else could there be colloboration? Further relaxation of restrictions on the import of dual use items for Indian space programmes, the launching of US commercial satellites from India and carrying US scientific instruments on board Chandrayaan-2. Based on the experience of Chandrayaan-1, however, it is hoped that the last one does not materialise.