NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy attend...

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy attend a press conference at the U.S. ambassador's residence, in Mexico City, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Nelson and Melroy, both former astronauts, spent two hours chatting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Tuesday. Credit: AP/Marco Ugarte

MEXICO CITY — 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.

Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson attend...

Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson attend a press conference at the U.S. ambassador's residence, in Mexico City, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Nelson and Melroy, both former astronauts, spent two hours chatting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Tuesday. Credit: AP/Marco Ugarte

“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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