The cooperation of NASA with ISRO remains intact, chief of the US space agency James Bridenstine has said, days after NASA branded India’s Mission Shakti as a "terrible thing" that had created 400 pieces of orbital debris and led to new dangers for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. In a letter to ISRO Chairman K Sivan, NASA Administrator Bridenstine said “based on the guidance received from the White House”, he looks forward continuing to work with ISRO on a host of issues including human space flights.
“As part of our partnership with you, we will continue to work on issues using the NASA-ISRO Human Space Flight Working Group, Planetary Science Working Group, US India Earth Science Working Group, and the Heliophysics Working Group,” Bridenstine said.
In his letter, Bridenstine says he recently wrote to ISRO about the suspension of cooperation on human space flight.
“Recently, we sent you a letter indicating a suspension of activities under the NASA-ISRO Human Space Flight Working Group,” he wrote.
Earlier, Robert Palladino, US State Department spokesperson had said, “As we’ve said previously, we have a strong strategic partnership with India, and we will continue to pursue shared interests in space, in scientific and technical cooperation, that includes collaboration on safety and security in space.” On NASA’s comment on Mission Shakti, Palladino said, “Now, the issue of space debris, that's an important concern for United States, and I would say that we took note of Indian government’s statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues.”
NASA’s comments came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week announced that India successfully test-fired an anti-satellite missile by shooting down a live satellite, describing it as a rare achievement that puts the country in an exclusive club of space superpowers. The test made India the fourth country in the world after the US, Russia and China to acquire the strategic capability to shoot down enemy satellites.
Not all of the pieces were big enough to track, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine explained. "What we are tracking right now, objects big enough to track -- we're talking about 10 centimeters (six inches) or bigger -- about 60 pieces have been tracked."