Carmen Rodriguez |
Madrid (EFE).- The NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, considers that Spain “is taking the space program very seriously” and that it is “inextricably related” with the United States in this matter, at a time when we are living a golden age of space exploration.
Nelson is visiting Spain, which has signed the Artemis Agreements, to guide cooperation in space exploration between countries, with a view to the return of astronauts to the Moon and to prepare a future trip to Mars.
The former astronaut, who has also visited the headquarters of the recently created Spanish Space Agency and will be received in audience by King Felipe VI, highlighted the role of this country in space matters in an interview with EFE.
Ask: What does Spain’s signing of the Artemis Agreements mean?
Answer: Spain is the twenty-fifth country to sign these Agreements and there will be more in the future because they are common sense.
They deal with the peaceful uses of space. It is that, if we have problems, we come to the rescue of another country that is in space. It is about the interchangeability of parts to be able to work together in space. They are common sense principles. That’s what the Artemis Accords are.
Q: How does Spain collaborate in the Artemis Program, which will once again take astronauts to the Moon?
A: Spain participates in many things. It already did so in the space shuttle (program), in which Pedro Duque flew in the late 1990s. He has also collaborated on the Perseverance rover, which is on Mars, in the program that goes to the Moon and will be part of a mini lunar space station called Gateway.
Spain is undoubtedly part of the communication with the Moon and our astronauts thanks to the large satellite dishes on the outskirts of Madrid (in Robledo de Chavela), which will be a critical communications link when we go to Mars, and now it is especially important in million-kilometer communication with the James Webb Space Telescope.
So Spain is inextricably intertwined with the United States and other countries in our space program.
Q: You have visited the headquarters of the new Spanish Space Agency, how will you facilitate the relationship between the two countries?
A: I want to thank the Government of Spain for creating a space agency. Miguel Belló, its director, is excellent, he is very well trained and versed in all these issues and is a strong voice at the European Space Agency (ESA).
I believe that its creation and your increased participation in ESA is putting Spain on the space program map.
Q: The PLD Space company is going to carry out its first test of launching a rocket designed and built in Spain. Is this also an important fact?
A: This is yet another indicator that Spain is taking the space program very seriously and this is the golden age of space exploration. We are going back to the Moon to learn to live, to create, to invent, to send astronauts to Mars, so this is a great time for Spain to be very active.
Q: China has just launched three astronauts to its space station, the first crew after its construction was completed, and it has a very active space program. Is it possible for China to go to the Moon and do it before the United States?
A: The Chinese government announced on Monday that they are going to land a Chinese astronaut, they call them taikonauts, on the Moon in 2030. If we are lucky, we will land again, after half a century, at the end of 2025 or in 2026.
But is there a space race? -He wonders- Of course, it’s a space race, because what worries me is if China reaches the south pole of the Moon, where the water is, and if it lands and then they say: “This is our territory, stay out” .
Isn’t it interesting that they don’t want to sign the Artemis Accords? -he wonders- Because a part of those Agreements says that everyone has to respect the rights of others and not have exclusive zones, except for the safety of your own team and your astronauts.
Q: There are people who think that it is not worth spending so much money to go to the Moon or Mars, what can you tell them?
A: A lot of people say, well, why should we spend the money to be in space? Well luckily, thanks to our satellites in space, we now know what’s happening to the Earth, that it’s getting warmer, that we need to be better stewards and take care of our Earth, or it might be too late for it to get too hot.
Also, space satellites can tell a farmer about the moisture content of his soil so he can plant a certain crop or we can tell disease in a forest and warn foresters that those trees are going to die and it’s going to make it easier. a forest fire. All this we determine from space.
Q: And do you think that people are aware?
A: No, not everyone is aware and that is why I am here in Spain and that is why I am going to Poland.
Q: When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon for the first time, there was great expectation around the world. When they come back to it, do you think people will experience it with the same intensity or are we harder to impress now?
A: Artemis III is going to land on the Moon. When the first woman walks on the surface of it and the next man, do you think the people of planet Earth are going to pay attention?
I think the intensity will increase when it gets to the point that the first woman, the next man, and the first person of color and the first non-American walk on the moon. I suspect it will be a front page story in your newspaper.