NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) signed an agreement to expand their cooperation in space exploration and research “for the betterment of mankind and for peaceful use,” the Israeli government announced Tuesday. ISA also expressed hope that technology developed in Israel would play a key role in NASA’s planned Mars missions.
“Israeli space technology is known for being extremely light-weight,” ISA chairman Isaac Ben-Israel said in a statement. “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 announcement comes just days after NASA released a detailed outline of its plan to send manned missions to the red planet. Under the three-phase plan announced last week, the space agency expects to carry out a series of exploration missions -- starting with the first integrated test of the Space Launch System and the Orion space capsule in 2018 -- and send astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s.
“Our two countries have had a long history of cooperation in space exploration, scientific discovery and research, and we look forward to the opportunities this new agreement provides us to build upon this partnership,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, in the statement. “You are known for your innovation and technology and this agreement gives us the opportunity to cooperate with Israel on the journey to Mars.”
NASA and Israel have previously conducted several joint experiments in the field of climate and microgravity research. Israel -- America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East -- is also part of an international collaboration that aims to study the moon and the solar system.
The latest agreement builds on past collaborations and will enable NASA and ISA to conduct joint missions, exchange personnel and scientific data, and share ground-based research facilities.
“The implications of this agreement for Israel’s space and scientific communities are tremendous,” Ofir Akunis, Israel's minister of science, technology and space, said in the statement. “The agreement … allows the science communities in both our countries important access to projects that offer the promise of significant development and growth in the years ahead.”