After it was announced last week that the Israeli group SpaceIL partnered with aerospace manufacturer SpaceX in order to compete in Google’s $30 million Lunar XPRIZE challenge, NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) signed an agreement Tuesday to further expand cooperation in civil space exploration.
Signed by NASA administrator Charles Bolden and ISA director Menachem Kidron at the International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem, the agreement will enable NASA and the ISA to exchange personnel and scientific data, share facilities, and ultimately conduct joint missions.
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“Our two countries have had a long history of cooperation in space exploration, scientific discovery and research,” said Bolden in a statement. “We look forward to the opportunities this new agreement provides us to build upon this partnership. You are known for your innovation and technology and this agreement gives us the opportunity to cooperate with Israel on the journey to Mars as we open up new opportunities for all of our children.”
ISA Chair Isaac Ben-Israel responded that “Israeli space technology is known for being extremely light-weight. Seeing that conserving energy will be vital in any future mission to Mars, we expect our technology to play a key role in such endeavors.”
The choice of Jerusalem as the host city for the annual International Astronautical Congress is also a telling sign that Israel’s technology is playing a key role in the advancement of space technology. Despite tensions in the capital, the five-day conference hosted over 2,000 international visitors from 58 different countries, including moon walker Buzz Aldrin, who attended the conference in an effort to encourage space education for Israeli students.
Israel’s first cooperation with NASA began in 1996, and the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, began training at the Johnson Space Center in 1998. He joined the STS-107 Columbia mission in 2003, which tragically exploded upon reentry into the earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, and all on board were killed.
This agreement reopens space cooperation between Israel and the US, which has not significantly advanced since the first agreement expired in 2005.
Photos: United States Air Force