The Israel Space Agency is renowned for its ability to coordinate projects in universities and companies and promote the utilization of military know-how for civilian purposes - not for sending astronauts into space or building shuttles.
Most of the work done by the agency, founded by the late astrophysicist Prof. Yuval Ne'eman in 1983 and chaired by him almost until his death last year, has been in the development of space telescopes as well as small, highly efficient satellites that have made Israel one of eight countries in the world to have developed and dispatched space satellites.
But the agency itself, which operates under the aegis of the Science and Technology Ministry (which suffers from low budgets, reduced staff and frequent ministerial changes) has a minuscule budget of around NIS 1 million a year. When it was established, there was a commitment to Ne'eman to invest $5 million a year in its activities, but as time passed the funding dwindled.
The agency has one of the smallest budgets of any such agency in the world, but it coordinates and promotes "some really world-class research," former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin said a few years ago.
Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in NASA's ill-fated Columbia shuttle landing on February 1, 2003, was trained for years in the US.
Ramon had been assigned chief responsibility for eight payload projects - including an Israeli-conceived project on aerosols and dust - and made deputy head for nine others.
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