From his well-appointed office on the ninth floor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, its Administrator Dr Michael Griffin looks out on a vista of increased space cooperation in which, he hopes, India will play an increasing role.
Dr Griffin, who has visited India twice since taking over the top slot at NASA, is currently looking forward to the launch of the Indian Space Research Organization's moon probe Chandrayaan-1 -- not only because it will mark the first occasion an Indian space launch vehicle carries advanced United States technological payload, but because of his belief that it will signal the start of sustained Indo-US cooperation in outer space.
His connection with all things India dates back to his student days at the University of Maryland, when he met, and became friends with, several Indian-American students who have remained among his closest friends.
One such friend -- Dr Ajay Kothari, president and CEO, Astrox Corporation, in Maryland, an aerospace research and development company that works closely with NASA -- told India Abroad: "When we were taking our graduate classes, there would be four, five students only in some of them; three of whom were Indians, along with Mike and maybe one more."
Dr Kothari describes his friend as 'quick-witted, with a great sense of humour, which still comes through quite often, and of course, stupendously smart. "We used to share one of those graduate assistant offices with Mike, and we also had the same advisor, Professor John Anderson, then head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering, now a very well known name in the aerospace world with eight books to his credit."
"At the time, little did we realize that our good friend Mike would one day go on to become head of the country's space program and take NASA to the new heights that he has."
Dr Griffin started out in academia, teaching courses in spacecraft design and related subjects at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington University. Besides various stints in the private sector, he has served as chief engineer and as associate administrator for exploration at NASA, and as deputy for technology at the Strategic Defence Initiative Organisation.
Dr Griffin discusses India's moon mission with Managing Editor Aziz Haniffa.
Image: NASA Administrator Dr Michael Griffin addresses the media during a briefing at the Kennedy Space Center.
Photograph: Matt Stroshane/Getty Images
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