On Oct. 3, NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) signed an agreement to cooperate on Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s unmanned spacecraft, which is expected to launch this December and land on the moon in February 2019.
NASA will be contributing scientific technology to the project, including a laser retroreflector array and Deep Space Network support to help the vehicle with landing and communication. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will also take scientific measurements of the spacecraft as it lands. SpaceIL and ISA will share lunar magnetic field data with NASA for its long-term archive. NASA and SpaceIL will later collaborate on analyzing the scientific data gathered from the mission.
The deal was signed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and ISA Director Avi Blasberger during the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Germany.
“Innovative partnerships like this are going to be essential as we go forward to the moon and create new opportunities there,” Administrator Bridenstine said.
This agreement follows NASA and ISA’s memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation between the two agencies, signed by Bridenstine during his visit to Israel in June.
“Cooperation between Israel and the United States is growing stronger in all fields, including the connection between NASA and the ISA,” Israeli Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said following the announcement of the agreement. “Israel is proud to be part of the renewed journey to the moon and to advance our technological abilities everywhere.”
SpaceIL was one of five finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which offered $20 million to the first nongovernmental team to land on the moon, until the competition ended with no winners. Despite the setback, SpaceIL decided to continue with its objective to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon.
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