Washington: The US has downplayed NASA's criticism of India over space debris created by the country's anti-satellite missile test, saying two nations would continue to pursue shared interests in space that includes collaboration on safety and security in space.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino's remarks came a day after National Aeronautics and Space Administration termed as a "terrible thing" India's shooting down of one of its satellites that has created about 400 pieces of orbital debris.
"The issue of space debris, that is an important concern for the United States, and I would say that we took note of the Indian Government’s statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues," Palladino said.
"I think we spoke a little bit about this last week. But 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 with India, and that includes collaboration on safety and security in space," he said.
Last week, India carried out Mission Shakti, in which it successfully targeted a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed its success as "an unprecedented achievement" that makes India "a space power."
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said about 60 pieces of debris have been tracked so far and out of which 24 are going above the apogee of the ISS. "That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris and an apogee that goes above the international space station. That kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see have happen," he said.
"The Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) test by India last week has resulted in about 400 pieces of orbital debris," he added. Bridenstine said not all of the pieces were big enough to track and the NASA is right now tracking objects which are 10 centimeters or bigger.
"Some 60 pieces of orbital debris have been tracked so far, 24 out of which poses risk to the International Space Station," he said.' India has said the test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris.
"Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks," the Ministry of External Affairs said soon after the test. By conducting the ASAT test, India was not in violation of any international law or treaty to to which it is a party to or any national obligation, it said.
A day after India successfully carried out its ASAT test, acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan warned that the event could create a "mess" in space but said Washington was still still studying the impact.
Responding to a quetion whether the US is sending any kind of election monitors to the general elections in India, Palladino said, "I’m not aware of anything in that regard."