Cablegate: Israel Space Agency has High Ambitions


DE RUEHTV #1867 2371251
R 251251Z AUG 09



Department for OES/SAT and NEA/IPA

E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Post ESTOff met with Zvi Kaplan, Director General of the
Israel Space Agency (ISA), on August 25, who outlined an ambitious
agenda for Israel in space sciences, and in particular for the ISA's
showcase conference in January. This message is background and
heads-up for likely engagement by the Department and Post on these
issues in coming months.

2. (SBU) During the meeting, Kaplan provided a copy of his letter to
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, sent August 5, inviting him to be
the keynote speaker at the Fifth Ilan Ramon International Space
Conference to be held near Tel Aviv January 27-29, 2010. (Ramon was
the Israeli astronaut who died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003
along with the American crew.) This annual conference organized by
the Fisher Institute of Air & Space Studies, the ISA and corporate
sponsors, convenes leaders in spaces sciences from business,
academia and government with a focus on policy, new technology, and
science education. USG attendance in previous years has usually
included several NASA scientists and an astronaut or two; last year
Pete Worden, head of NASA Ames Research Center attended, and post
understands he is inclined to return this year. Post supports the
invitation to Bolden, and encourages a strong NASA delegation for
the conference.

3. (SBU) The ISA DG also outlined other ambitions for Israel's space
program. As he has already voiced to NASA, Kaplan wants to see
another Israeli astronaut participating in the manned flight
program. He acknowledged that NASA's manned flight program faced an
uncertain future given the constrained NASA budget, and that the USG
had several major decisions to make regarding the Agency's future
priorities. Nonetheless, manned flight is what focuses public
attention and motivates students to go into science, and he wants
Israel to be part of it, even if it is a decade down the road.
Second, Kaplan hopes that Israel can participate in NASA's Lunar
Science Institute. He understands that Korea and Canada are already
cooperating with the NLSI. Although Israel's Space Agency is a
small body that coordinates and promotes Israel's academic and
business space science capabilities, and unlike NASA operates no
labs of its own, ISA plays a role in fostering greater interaction
between Israeli and foreign researchers.

4. (SBU) Third, the ISA is working with private sector consortia
preparing a proposal for the Discovery Mission solicitation
regarding mapping Venus. Israel has proven expertise in small
payload systems design, and has good value-added to contribute in
mapping missions. (Comment: Israel also hopes to use this type of
high visibility project to promote sales of Israeli technology
applications overseas.)

5. (SBU) Kaplan's ultimate goal is to have a bilateral space science
cooperation agreement between the US and Israel. Although ISA is a
small counterpart compared to NASA, he believes Israel's prowess in
high technology fields makes it a desirable partner in
research-dependent fields such as space science. Kaplan says Israel
has a bilateral cooperation agreement on space research in place
with France, and expects this November to sign one with Italy.
Discussions are also proceeding with Russia on a space science
cooperation agreement, but it is unlikely to be ready in time for a
planned visit by Putin to Israel in October.

6. (SBU) Comment: Post is aware of Israeli ongoing participation in
NASA's ECHO project, but agrees there is no large, bilateral
framework for exchange and cooperation in space sciences. NASA's
favorable impressions from last year's Ramon Conference visit,
during which time the delegation had considerable contact with
Israeli industry and academia, indicate that such an agreement may
merit serious consideration.


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