The United States and India inked an agreement to join in using space for peaceful purposes.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Indian Space Research Organization Chairman G. Madhavan Nair signed the framework agreement.

“I am honored to sign this agreement with the India Space Research Organization,” Griffin said. “This agreement will allow us to cooperate effectively on a wide range of programs of mutual interest. India has extensive space-related experience, capabilities and infrastructure, and will continue to be a welcome partner in NASA’s future space exploration activities.”

India is ramping up its space activities, ranging from launch activities to lunar mission ambitions. Meanwhile, the United States is preparing to wrap up space shuttle missions in two years, when it will begin a half-decade-long withdrawal from space missions.

During that time, the United States won’t be able to send even one astronaut into low Earth orbit, and instead will be dependent for space transport on Russia, Japan, and perhaps private commercial space transport companies, and India if it develops human space-launch capabilities by 2014, as planned.

According to the framework agreement, the two agencies will identify areas of mutual interest and seek to develop cooperative programs or projects in Earth and space science, exploration, human space flight and other activities.

The agreement replaces a soon-to-expire agreement signed on Dec. 16, 1997, which fostered bilateral cooperation in the areas of Earth and atmospheric sciences.

In addition to a long history of cooperation in Earth science, NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization also are cooperating on India’s first mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, which will be launched later this year.

NASA is providing two of the 11 instruments on the spacecraft: the moon mineralogy mapper instrument and the miniature synthetic aperture radar instrument.