Israel signs NASA-led Artemis program to land astronauts on lunar surface

Israel officially signed on Wednesday to a NASA-led space program to land astronauts on the lunar surface and establish a long-term human presence on the moon in preparation for future missions to Mars.

The agreement to join the Artemis program establishes principles for cooperation on space exploration and the human presence on the Moon and will allow Israel to embark on new space research collaborations, both commercial and economic, with other other participating countries, the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology said on Wednesday.

More than a dozen countries have already signed the NASA-led Artemis Accords, including Australia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Italy, United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan and South Korea. . Israel is the 15th country to join the program, which is led by NASA in partnership with the European Space Agency, US commercial spaceflight operators and space agencies of participating nations.

NASA is looking to establish a lasting presence on the Moon and use lessons learned to plan a crewed trip to Mars in the 2030s. The program hopes to build a permanent outpost on the moon, including an Artemis base camp on the surface and a dedicated station, Gateway, in lunar orbit to allow “robots and astronauts to explore more and conduct more science than ever before.”

First signed in October 2020 by its founding members, the Artemis Accords are based on 10 principles intended to govern civilian exploration of outer space. These principles include peaceful exploration, transparency, publication of scientific data, emergency assistance to personnel from all countries, and the use of space resources in accordance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forms the basis of international space law.

Earth 36,000 nautical miles away, photographed from the Apollo 10 spacecraft during its trans-lunar journey to the Moon, May 18, 1969. (NASA via AP)

The agreement with Israel was signed by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Israel Space Agency (ISA) Director General Uri Oron on Wednesday, more than a week after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that the country would join the program.

“We are heading towards a global, innovative future where countries mobilize resources for science and research and work together to advance space diplomacy. The signing of the agreements will strengthen cooperation with the other signatories in the field of trade and economy,” Lapid said. wrote on Twitter last Sunday.

The first planned unmanned test flight, Artemis 1, is scheduled for March, using NASA’s new SLS rocket, but observers expect the space agency to push back the launch to the summer. Artemis 2 is technically scheduled for 2023 and Artemis 3 for 2024. A moon landing is scheduled for 2025.

NASA said the moonwalkers would include the first woman and first person of color to make the journey.

Illustrative: In this July 20, 1969 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the moon during Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via PA)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been tapped to design and build the human lander that will carry the first astronauts to the Moon as part of the Artemis program, which will establish humanity’s return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo mission 17 in 1972.

Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said Israel was joining the international effort to make the Moon “more than a stop, but a place to stay for a significant time, in order to allow developments and research that cannot be done”. Anywhere else. Israel can and must play a central role in this dream.

“Signing this agreement now is another building block of our relationship with the United States, our greatest friend in the world. The essence of the Artemis program – to do something bold and inspiring, to land people – women and men – on the moon once again, after five decades,” she added.

ISA’s Oron said, “Israel today joins 14 countries that share similar values ​​regarding the future use of resources from the moon, Mars and other celestial bodies…for the benefit of all humanity. I am convinced that thanks to the Artemis program, all of humanity will advance, not only in space but also here on Earth.

Israel Space Agency (ISA) Director General Uri Oron signs the Artemis Accords for Israel as it joins the NASA-led program to establish a human presence on the Moon, January 26, 2022. ( Tzipi Vilmovski/GPO)

Space exploration, he said, holds enormous potential “for Israel in particular, and for the whole world, in the areas of innovation, technology and international diplomacy,” Oron added.

“The Israel Space Agency will work to ensure…collaborations in research, science, innovation and economics within the framework of the Artemis Accords between Israeli bodies and our international colleagues. ”

Israel is currently marking its annual Space Week with a flurry of space-related events and announcements.

Earlier this week, the country announced 35 completed scientific, medical and educational experiments to be performed this spring by Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe as part of Israel’s Rakia mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The Rakia (sky in Hebrew) program is part of Axiom Space Ax-1, the world’s first private mission to the ISS. Stibbe will travel to the space station aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule in late March (target date: March 31, 2022) and is expected to conduct around 30 microgravity experiments in cooperation with Israeli universities, research groups and tech startups .

Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe. (Ori Burg)

The selected experiments reflect a wide range of scientific and technological disciplines – including radiation, genomics, immunology, neural functioning, quantum communication, astrophysics, agro-technology, communications, optics, ophthalmology, medical devices and disease research.

Among them is a radiation suit co-developed by Israeli company Stemrad in partnership with Lockheed Martin to protect astronauts’ vital organs from harmful gamma radiation. Exposure can lead to radiation sickness, accelerated destruction of blood cells and the body’s inability to replenish them, due to damage to the bone marrow, which is needed to generate new cells.

The vest, Astrorad, should also be on board the Artemis 1.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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