Israel, UAE to collaborate on Beresheet 2 space mission

After reaching a historic peace agreement with Israel just last year, the UAE will now have an opportunity to bring its space exploration program into the future.

The historic selfie image of Beresheet of the spacecraft approaching the lunar surface (photo credit: SPACEIL IAI)
The historic selfie image of Beresheet of the spacecraft approaching the lunar surface
(photo credit: SPACEIL IAI)

Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a historic deal regarding space missions, Ynet reported on Tuesday, which will include collaborating on the Israeli rocket ship “Beresheet 2” space project bound for the Moon.

As part of the agreement, the two nations will work together on data-based development and research from the Israeli-French satellite Venus, while students from the UAE will work with Israeli students on a new satellite tracking the Moon.

The Beresheet 2 is Israel's second attempt at launching a lunar mission. The first – named “Beresheet” after the first word in the Torah meaning "in the beginning" – was launched in 2019 with the goal of landing on the surface of the moon, making Israel just the fourth country on the planet to attempt a moon landing. SpaceIL, the company behind the Beresheet rocket ships, would have become the first private entity to reach the Moon, as well as the first Israeli mission to make lunar contact.

The original Beresheet mission almost succeeded, until SpaceIL lost contact with the craft just minutes before it was meant to touch down and it crash-landed onto the Moon. The mission is still considered a success because it got so close to landing while being the smallest and least expensive spacecraft (approximately $100 million) ever designed to fly to the Moon.

In the spirit of Israeli resiliency, however, SpaceIL announced the Beresheet 2 project just days after the crash landing, their second attempt to land a spacecraft on the Moon. The project was expected to take about three years and another $100 million to complete.

Israeli scientists inspect Beresheet in Yehud  (credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)Israeli scientists inspect Beresheet in Yehud (credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

After reaching a historic peace agreement with Israel just last year, the UAE will now have an opportunity to bring its space exploration program into the future. “It would be wonderful if we could develop a space program that would be a combination of Israel and the Arab world,” SpaceIL’s chairman Morris Kahn told the Global Investment Forum in Dubai on Wednesday.

“I would welcome it – if it fits in with the program the Emirates have. They have an ambitious program,” Kahn, a respected philanthropist, said at the conference jointly organized by The Jerusalem Post and the Khaleej Times – adding that such a joint initiative would be the “pinnacle of my achievement and my involvement in space.”

Both the UAE and Israel have among the most advanced space programs in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi’s “New Hope” probe reached Mars’ orbit in February of this year while Israel’s original Beresheet mission entered the Moon’s orbit in 2019. The UAE’s $10 billion investment pledged in Israel last March earmarked funds for space projects.

Zev Stub and Aaron Reich contributed to this report.