NASA leaders discuss global challenges, solutions with Mexico president, lawmakers and students

MEXICO CITY (AP) — In a frequently tense relationship often defined by a shared border, the United States sent two officials with a different perspective to Mexico this week for a bit of space diplomacy.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy – both former astronauts –spent two hours chatting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Tuesday, took selfies with federal lawmakers and a day earlier spoke to an auditorium full of students and faculty from various Mexican universities.

“It’s a human thing to want to explore and to understand, so we go to space because it offers a unique vantage point that allows us to look down on the earth and study the earth as a planet,” Melroy said.

From that unique vantage point “not only do you not see borders, we see North America as one continental landmass,” a necessary perspective for tackling global problems like climate change.

Melroy noted that earlier month, people across North America gathered to watch a solar eclipse.

“We know that space is something that brings us all together,” she said. “Millions of people just a few weeks ago from Mazatlan to Maine, stood looking together up at the sky.”

Nelson said in his lengthy audience with López Obrador, the president was especially interested in space-based communications technology like the thousands of satellites of SpaceX’s Starlink that are bringing high-speed internet to the most remote corners of the planet.

“The president’s dream is that people would have connectivity that a lot of the population in Mexico does not have,” Nelson said.

Nelson spent six days orbiting Earth in 1986 in a space shuttle when he was a congressman.

He said he made another proposal during his meetings in Mexico: “I suggested they ought to have a Mexican astronaut.” Nelson mentioned that Rodolfo Neri, Mexico’s first astronaut, had flown in 1985, the year before Nelson did.

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