NASA Launches Israel Co-Op Plans

The president of NASA is visiting Israel and urging closer cooperation with the Jewish State. He praised Israel’s space technology expertise.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 10:47 AM

Ilan Ramon
Ilan Ramon
Israel news photo: NASA

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator and former astronaut Charles F. Bolden Jr. is in Israel and on Sunday urged closer cooperation with the Jewish State, which he cited for its expertise in space technology.


Bolden is guest of honor at the annual the International Ilan Ramon Space Conference, in memory of the late Israeli astronaut who fell in the Colombia space shuttle disaster. He said, “Israel is connected to NASA in many ways including the memory of the unforgettable Columbia disaster and the heroic Ilan Ramon who lost his life together with his team.”


Minister of Science and Technology Daniel Herskovitz, Ramon’s widow Rona Ramon, President Shimon Peres and leaders of the Israeli space industry met with the NASA director.


                                                                                Bolden added, “Some people go through life, and never risk anything and never even try anything. What I think is so important about this week… is that it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the life of Ilan, on the kind of things he did and the standards he set for young people to follow.”  (Photo: Bolden, Peres and Ramon's wife Rona)  


Ramon, a former F-16 squadron commander, and Lt.-Col. Yitzchak May began training at NASA in 1998, and Ramon was chosen to be the first Israeli astronaut. May was his backup.


One of the main projects Ramon was assigned was to observe and take pictures of atmospheric aerosols in the Mediterranean area using ultraviolet, visible and near infrared array-detector cameras. The cameras take calibrated images of desert and transported pollution aerosols over land and sea, which were to provide scientific information about atmospheric aerosols and the influence of global changes on the climate.


The seven-member space shuttle Columbia crew successfully completed the launch on January 16, 2003, for a 16-day mission. The Columbia was set to return to earth on February 1, but the shuttle came apart and the crew lost their lives a few minutes before landing.


The relatively tiny Israel Space Agency (ISA), part of the Ministry of Science, has worked with NASA since 1985, two years since the Israeli agency’s inception. In 1986, NASA and ISA signed a general agreement to exchange existing scientific and technical information. The U.S. agreed to give Israel information such as NASA aerospace and technical reports. Israel, in turn, would give NASA scientific reports and working papers in areas such as aeronautics, astronautics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences.


Former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin visited Israel in August 2001 and noted that the Israel Space Agency has one of the smallest budgets of any space agency in the world, but still promotes "some really world-class research."  


In June 1999, NASA and ISA signed an agreement to share information through NASA’s Earth Observation System Data Information System (EOSDIS), making Israel the 10th country hooked up to the line. It can be used for weather prediction, agriculture and meteorology.


Under contract from ISA, the Institute of Petroleum Research and Geophysics in Israel has operated a NASA-furnished MOBLAS-2 mobile satellite laser ranging (SLR) station in the Judean Hills. It has tracked satellites and provided data used to study earthquakes, polar motion and earth rotation.


NASA previously has praised Israel’s effort, saying that it “considers that major achievements” have come from the SLR station, which was discontinued in the mid-1990s because of budget cuts.