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Diplomacy in Action

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow Interview: Mangala Sharma, Ph.D.

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
April 22, 2014


Mangala Sharma, Ph.D.

Physical Scientist

Office of Space and Advanced Technology


At the State Department, I work on promoting international cooperation on outer space issues. We work with other countries, other scientists, other governments, as well as at the United Nations level to make sure there is access to space for all mankind, that the benefits of space exploration and utilization are available to all mankind, and we also work to preserve U.S. leadership in space.

My experiences at State Department have been phenomenal. I’ve done everything from trying to organize a meeting which brought together ministers and heads of space agencies and high-level officials from all parts of the world - both the nations which have very advanced space programs, as well as those with just emerging space programs. We brought them all together to discuss cooperation in space issues.

Space exploration and applications and utilization cover a variety of issues that include advanced technology and innovation – some of which are predictable, some of which are not – and they involve a lot of complex issues where multiple things have to come together in very exquisitely coordinated fashion in order for the space project to succeed.

At the State Department we realize the nature of these complex issues. We work with our space agency, NASA, as well as with other space agencies across the world, and their governments, to make sure that we have an atmosphere of innovation. We also have an atmosphere of stability and predictability so that this innovation can occur and succeed. And, we have to be aware that these take years, or even decades for a complex program to succeed – whether it was building the Hubble Space Telescope or the International Space Station, or any of the other future missions to the asteroids or Mars -- we are talking about technology that we need to start building now, so that years or decades from now, those can be applied to go way beyond the Earth.

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