The Israel Space Agency on Wednesday signed an agreement with NASA for full collaboration on the Beresheet 2 lunar mission, the Jewish state's grand return to the Moon.
The statement of intent was signed by NASA Associate Administrator Robert D. Cabana and ISA Director-General Uri Oron and will see the US space agency provide full support for the Israeli lunar mission.
This builds off the previous collaboration in 2019 when NASA and the Israel Space Agency worked together on the first Beresheet mission, launched with SpaceIL. That mission technically succeeded in landing on the Earth – the control room had lost contact with the lander shortly before touchdown, meaning it crash-landed on the lunar surface.
Now, Beresheet 2 is hoping to bring the Jewish state back and is expected to launch in 2025.
The mission itself is comprised of three spacecraft: One orbiter that will stay in space and two landers that will go to the lunar surface.
How is NASA helping Israel's Beresheet 2 mission?
According to SpaceIL CEO Shimon Sarid, there are two specific areas in which NASA is helping the Beresheet 2 mission: Communications and technology.
NASA will provide SpaceIL and the Israel Space Agency with its advanced communications systems, which is crucial to tracking the spacecraft during the critical phase of the mission.
"We need NASA equipment to better understand the situation and to transmit data," Sarid explained.
Regarding technology, one of the Beresheet 2 landers is set to land on the dark side of the Moon while carrying NASA scientific instruments. These will carry out another important part of the mission: Carrying out radiation measurements.
"Radiation is very crucial in exploration in space, especially deep space, for the survival of equipment and astronauts," Sarid said, stressing the importance of measuring its levels on the Moon for this reason.
But NASA isn't just giving it all for free, as Israel is expected to give something back.
"We have a variety of experimental technologies on board the two landers and the orbiter," Sarid said. These tools will conduct different measurements and experiments, and Israel will freely share this data with NASA.
"It's a win-win," Sarid said.
Officials from both Israel and NASA shared excitement over this collaboration.
"The Beresheet project is the pride of Israel’s groundbreaking science and technology," Israeli Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said at the signing. "The collaboration with NASA and our new agreement, which I welcome, is a further testimony to the excellent relations between Israel and the USA and to the intensifying cooperation on science and technology issues."
"The collaboration with NASA and our new agreement, which I welcome, is a further testimony to the excellent relations between Israel and the USA and to the intensifying cooperation on science and technology issues."Ofir Akunis
Cabana was just as excited about this scientific collaboration, saying that "the moon is an exciting destination to explore and I look forward to the scientific discoveries that will come from the Beresheet-2 mission. Our partnership on this lunar mission and Israel's commitment to the Artemis Accords are enabling us to explore the Moon together."
This is only part of the growing cooperation between the Israel Space Agency and the US as they hope to expand the Jewish state's reach to the stars.
With that in mind, Israel had already signed on to NASA's Artemis Accords, which outlines best practices for space exploration.
The US isn't the only one getting in on the Beresheet 2 mission. Back in April 2022, SpaceIL signed a deal with the UAE to cooperate on the Beresheet 2 mission – a deal that built off the Abraham Accords that normalized Israeli-Emirati ties.
Israel Space Week: The 18th annual Ilan Ramon International Space Conference
The signing of the Israel Space Agency-NASA deal occurred as part of Israel Space Week, the 18th annual Ilan Ramon International Space Conference. This conference is held every year in memory of Ilan Ramon, Israel's first-ever astronaut, who sadly died in the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003.
Since then, Israel has successfully sent another astronaut into space, Eytan Stibbe, and is working on sending another lunar lander after the first one crashed.
This is a testament to the Jewish state's growing space ambitions as it continues to reach for the stars.
"We hope that we'll continue to push the boundaries of space exploration and space education together."Shimon Sarid
As noted by Sarid: "We hope that we'll continue to push the boundaries of space exploration and space education together."