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Brazil In Space: Enlisting Public Support

File photo of a VLS1 launch.
by Frank Braun
Brasilia, Brazil (UPI) Oct 11, 2004
Brazil does not want the world to misunderstand its space or nuclear programs, because both have only peaceful and civilian objectives in mind, according to Eduardo Campos, Brazil's Minister of Science and Technology.

Since our space program was born during the years of military rule, we have to make sure that we make the transition to a fully civil program, with a focus on showing our society that it is just as important to predict the weather as it is to build a road, Campos told United Press International.

Our main efforts at the moment are to show Brazilians the importance of our space program - in other words, to popularize the space program, to demonstrate that a program such as CIBER (the joint China-Brazil remote-sensing satellite) is important, not just because Brazil becomes part of a select group of countries that can sell images, but also because we are able to use this program for our own national benefit - to monitor weather, to monitor deforestation, etc. - resources that return to the society's benefit.

A Brazilian delegation, including Campos and Sergio Gaudenzi, the president of AEB, Brazil's space agency, is scheduled to travel to China this month to sign agreements permitting worldwide sale of images from its CIBER-2 satellite, which was launched in 2003.

According to estimates in the Brazilian press, the global market for remote-sensing images is growing at over 7 percent a year and in 2004 is worth about $1 billion in sales.

Campos also indicated that Brazil is determined to pursue development of its VLS national rocket program, despite previous failures and U.S. concerns about ballistic-missile, dual-use technology.

The president has made a commitment to launch the VLS by 2006, Campos said, and it is an important program to our nation.

The United States shouldn't have any worries about the development of the VLS because they know the role that Brazil fulfills in the world and the responsibility that Brazil exercises with this program.

He called the United States a great partner in the development of our intellectual capital in this regard, and added that the U.S. government has technical cooperation with us in all the areas that you can imagine. They also know that Brazil has the conditions to have a program such as the VLS.

Campos went out of his way to emphasize that the United States and the world should also not be concerned about Brazil's nuclear program, despite a recent dispute concerning U.N. inspections of one of the country's uranium enrichment facilities.

According to Campos, the objectives of Brazil's nuclear and space programs are primarily in food and agriculture, human health, industry, water resource management, and in environmental monitoring, research and protection, with due regard to safety.

Brazil's nuclear program began in the same environment as the space program, Campos said, but later it was established in our constitutional revision of 1989 that it was to be a program with pacifist ends.

Brazil is one of the few nations in the world that has all of its installations - civil and military - licensed by all the international agencies. It is in our federal constitution that our nuclear program exists only for peaceful purposes.

Three years ago, Campos continued, Brazil experienced a serious energy crisis, which was overcome only with much difficulty.

Today, he said, we get 5 percent of our national energy from nuclear power, and 50 percent of the energy of the important states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo are provided by nuclear power.

So, our objectives are to have a nuclear program which allows us no longer to live at the mercy of the energy shortages and blackouts that we encountered three years ago, and which were disastrous to our economy.

Campos said Brazil has adhered very strongly to international, nuclear non-proliferation agreements. We have a leadership position in this regard as the U.S. Energy Secretary (Spencer Abraham) indicated recently.

Our nuclear program will continue with the level of responsibility with which the world is familiar, he said.

The rest of the world should avoid confusing Brazil's nuclear program with that of other nations that have not demonstrated the same level of responsibility, he cautioned. That wouldn't be fair.

Last week, Brazil reached an agreement with the United Nations to allow inspections of its uranium enrichment plant outside of Rio de Janeiro, although the limited inspections will not permit access to certain areas.

The limitations are meant to protect the country's proprietary technology, according to the country's Ministry of Science and Technology

Campos said Brazilian officials currently are in discussions with the United States about a new Technology Safeguards Agreement, which would permit U.S. rockets or payloads with U.S. components - such as satellites - to be launched from Alcantara, the country's space facility.

Brazil previously had signed a TSA with the United States, but the agreement was not ratified by the Brazilian Congress when objections were raised - both in the legislature and the media - that certain restrictions included in the agreement infringed upon the country's sovereignty.

Concerning the TSA with the United States, Campos said, there are ongoing discussions taking place with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Defense, with the goal of reaching a new version.

He said Brazil was trying to reach an agreement that meets the needs of both sides.

I think that we will reach a new agreement with the Americans, he said. The news ... about these meetings is very positive, very encouraging.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2004 by United Press International. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by United Press International. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of by United Press International.

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