Mr. Worldwide (8/15/23)
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NASA’s Globetrotting Administrator
NASA’s Bill Nelson with Colombian President Gustavo Petro this month. Image: NASA
What do Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Argentine President Alberto Fernández have in common? They all met with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson this summer.
Nelson is embracing—and elevating—his role as the nation’s space diplomat, and his long history on Capitol Hill means he doesn’t clam up when the conversation veers away from the cosmos.
“With my broad background in government, I’m fairly conversant with most of these subjects, so if it flows to discussing—[especially]...all over Latin America—the efforts of China, that’s something that I didn’t hesitate when it was brought up,” Nelson told Payload. “If it involved anything about Ukraine, I’m fairly conversant with that.”
Have passport, will travel: Administration officials who travel abroad typically meet with their foreign counterparts. But Nelson told us global excitement about space means he is often meeting with heads of state, including presidents, prime ministers, and kings, highlighting NASA’s soft power role in geopolitics.
So far this year, Nelson has already met with heads of state during trips to Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and Spain, in addition to meetings with top leaders from South Korea and India in DC. He recently got back to Washington after a tour through South America, which included meeting with top officials in Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.
“Because of the popularity of NASA, it is the presidents of countries that want to see us as well. So on this last trip, President Lula of Brazil, I am told he does not accept many foreign visitors, he accepts the equal station of other heads of state,” Nelson said. “But he very graciously wanted to see us. That turned into an hour and a half meeting with him.”
Nelson with Spanish King Felipe VI in Madrid in June. Image: NASA
Stories from the road: Nelson told stories of his meetings with international officials, from meeting with Spanish King Felipe VI, who is a pilot, to “hitting it off” with French President Emmanuel Macron.
“I was in Paris at some space conference and I get word that the president of France wants to see me. I have a very engaging conversation with him for an hour with a whole range of topics that he and I brought up, plus some laughs,” Nelson said. “Lo and behold, when [he] comes for the state visit with President Biden in Washington, where else does he want to go? He wants to go to NASA.”
Stories from home: Nelson also said he played a key role in the agreement reached with India in June to work together on human spaceflight, including training and launching an Indian astronaut to the ISS in 2024. After giving a space-focused presentation at the White House during Modi’s visit alongside Indian American NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Nelson said Modi “warmly greeted” Williams.
“The prime minister is heading towards the two of us saying out loud, ‘I knew her father and he was a singer,’” Nelson said. “It turns out Sunni Williams…her father and Prime Minister Modi knew each other as young boys.”
What’s next: Nelson will travel to India late this year to continue hammering out details on the proposed cooperation. He will also travel to Dubai for his first visit to the annual Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP) at the end of November.
The Secret Sauce to Satellite Manufacturing
Over the last five years, the demand for small satellite manufacturing has skyrocketed, fueled by their cost-effectiveness and versatility across a broad range of applications, including EO, defense, communications, and scientific research.
However, meeting demand in a timely and reliable manner is a challenge for the industry.
As a prime contractor operating within this burgeoning sector, Millennium Space Systems leverages decades of experience and a streamlined production system to help meet the ever-growing customer demand. The synergistic approach has enabled Millennium’s small satellite manufacturing to hit its stride, increasing its speed of production to a trajectory resembling Moore’s Millennium’s Law.
2011 Rapid Pathfinder: 24 months
2019 Tetra-1: 13 months
2023 Victus Nox: 8 months
Library of Cosmos
Lawmakers introduced a bill that would recognize troops who performed space missions before the Space Force’s establishment as legacy Guardians.
Russia will attend IAC this fall after skipping the 2022 conference.
China is watching NASA’s budget, and what potential cuts could mean for US leadership in space.
Save the Date!
Join us at our second Space Capitol event, where we will bring together emerging space companies and the government for a thought leadership and networking experience.
Tweet of the week
It’s been a long journey, but Space Command is here to stay! Thank you to everyone who came out yesterday to celebrate this glorious occasion. Onward!
— Senator John Hickenlooper (@SenatorHick)
Aug 8, 2023