NASA and the Israel Space Agency signed an agreement Tuesday to expand cooperation in civil space activities, the Israeli government said.
The deal was signed by NASA administrator Charles Bolden and ISA director Menachem Kidron on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem.
Bolden said the agreement would enable the US space agency to tap Israeli innovation and technology in cooperation
“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,” he said in a statement.
The Israel Space Agency expressed hope that the Jewish state’s technology would play a key role in future missions to Mars.
The agreement will enable NASA and the ISA to conduct joint missions, exchange personnel and scientific data and share facilities, the joint statement said.
The choice of Jerusalem as the host city for the annual International Astronautical Congress is considered a sign of Israel’s growing influence in the field of space exploration and technology.
The five-day program hosted over 2,000 international visitors hailing from 58 different countries. In addition to Bolden and other senior NASA officials, famed moon walker Buzz Aldrin attended the conference, partnering with the Israel Space Agency and the Science Ministry to encourage interest in space education by Israeli youth.
NASA first signed a cooperation agreements with Israel in 1996. That agreement paved the way for the training of the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, at the Johnson Space Center. Ramon trained for five years starting in 1998 in preparation for his mission on the Space Shuttle Columbia.
The ill-fated flight — it tragically exploded upon reentry into the earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, and all on board were killed — was Israel’s most famous foray into space.