The Science and Technology Ministry is looking seriously into the option of training another Israeli to become an astronaut in the tradition of the late Col. Ilan Ramon, who died in space on the US Columbia space shuttle exactly a decade ago.

The Israel Space Agency is making informal contacts with international space authorities on the matter. Although the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has halted the dispatching of manned space shuttles into space, it may be than an Israeli trained by NASA could be sent to work at the International Space Station in a few years, the ministry said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Israel has been invited to join the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS); it previously had only observer status on the committee, which is the central international body that deals with space matters.

In a meeting between members of the ISA, the invitation was extended by Dr. Mazlan Othman, head of COPUOS.

Israeli representatives said they are interested in expanding the country’s involvement in such space activities and will consider joining as a member.

ISA representatives suggested to Othman that they put a model of an Israeli satellite on display at COPUOS’s permanent exhibition in Vienna. The exhibition contains models of various space vehicles and other memorabilia from numerous countries involved in space exploration. Among these is a statue of Yuri Gargarin, the world’s first astronaut who was sent into space by the former Soviet Union, and a stone brought back from space. So far, Israel – which is a major world leader in the development of satellites – has had no representative object on display there.

More than a dozen senior space administrators and scientists from around the world have been in Herzliya over the past few days to attend an annual conference in memory of Ramon, who died in space exactly a decade ago.

Science and Technology Ministry director-general Menahem Greenblum and European Commission deputy director-general for industrial initiatives Dr. Paul Weissberg signed an agreement that opens the door for cooperation between Israel and the EC in the field of space. The agreement, according to the ministry, will open up various cooperation activities with Europe and give legitimacy to Israeli industrialists and researchers to be involved in European space projects.

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