The recent cutbacks in fundings to the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) announced by the United States government may cause delays in the programme to build a new spacecraft as well as projects related to commercial space flights, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams said here on Tuesday.

Ms. Williams also said she hoped that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and NASA will collaborate closely in the future.

“Over the time that I have been at NASA, I’ve seen the relationship between India and the United States go in a much more positive direction, particularly when it comes to space,” she said, adding that on her first visit to India she was not allowed to go to ISRO, but today scientists of both organisations communicate freely.

Speaking to school students at an interactive session, Ms. Williams said that when the end of the space shuttle programme was announced nearly two years ago, NASA scientists were looking forward to building a spacecraft with more updated technology – a project that is likely to be affected by the recent budget cuts.

Better aircraft

“The space shuttle has been almost retired now for almost two years. One of the reasons we did that is because we wanted to build the next spacecraft that is going to go further – back to the moon, maybe in the vicinity of an asteroid, to Mars. We want to build a bigger better spacecraft. That might get delayed a little bit,” Ms. Williams said.

She also said NASA’s collaborations with companies to build commercial vehicles that would take people to the International Space Station might also be affected.

“But all of those things are still in the works. It is not like we are putting a stop on any of these,” she said in response to a question. “What will not be affected are the experiments planned for the International Space Station,” she said.

“The first and foremost priority is maintaining what we have right now. We have agreements with all our international partners so the international space station is going to continue as it is. It has already been contracted out,” she said, adding that the crew members, countries and experiments had already been planned.