28 Feb 2008

NASA to open satellite tracking station in French Polynesia

2:16 pm on 28 February 2008

It has been revealed that the French Polynesian government has signed a one-year lease with the US space agency NASA for it to use a plot of land in the Marquesas Islands.

The Tahitipresse news agency says a small hangar on Nuku Hiva will be used to track satellites being put into space from California.

The news agency says Ukraine also uses a place in the Marquesas for satellite monitoring.

Meanwhile, a consular agent in Papeete acting in behalf of the US says the American coast guard would like to have a presence in the area in a bid to stop drug smuggling.

He says there has been little progress on the matter in talks with the French Polynesian government and the French foreign ministry.

The Marquesas are the islands most distant from any continental land mass.

Some of its leaders recently called for a new statute to give the group direct links to Paris - a proposition decried in Tahiti but not rebuffed by the French government.