Strasbourg: India's head of State, president APJ Abdul Kalam, addressed a gathering of space students at the International Space University (ISU) on Tuesday in Strasbourg and said that India was set to make "important contributions" to the future of exploration with missions to the Moon and Mars.
Addressing a packed lecture hall at the ISU, the ex-missile scientist, turned aero-science professor, turned head of state, told students of the university that space has no borders - "When we explore space, (it) can act as a motivator for national collaboration between nations." Strasbourg is famous for being the seat of the European Parliament.
Space is a "platform for sharing ideas and technologies and to work towards a sustainable world with peace and prosperity", Kalam said.
Before becoming president of India in 2002, Kalam was a professor of Technology and Societal Transformation at the Anna University in Chennai.
Kalam, who was introduced to the students, drawn from around the world, as a "president and a teacher", said space science had enabled Indian villages to taste the fruits of connectivity and had been "touching the lives of many among the billion people of India in several ways".
"Today, India with her 14,000 scientific, technological and support staff in multiple research centres, supported by about 500 industries and academic institutions, has the capability to build any type of satellite launch vehicle to place remote sensing, communications and meteorology satellites in different orbits and space application has become part of our daily life.
"India has today a constellation of six remote sensing and 10 communication satellites serving applications like natural resource survey, communication, disaster management support, meteorology, tele-education (10,000 classrooms) and tele-medicine (200 hospitals).
"Our country is in the process of establishing 100,000 Common Service Centres across the country through public-private partnership model for providing knowledge input to rural citizens," Kalam told the students at ISU that has had a long and cooperative relationship with India.
Among the alumni of the university, over one per cent are from India, which ISU president Michael Simpson said "is a pretty large proportion for a school whose graduates come from 93 countries".
Kalam will address the European Parliament on Wednesday before leaving for Athens on a four-day state visit to Greece, the first by an Indian head of state in 21 years.