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Cablegate: Nasa Administrator Visits Israel

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STATE FOR OES/S, NEA/RA AND NEA/IPA
AMMAN FOR ESTH - BHALLA

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TAGS: TSPA ETRD PREL IS
SUBJECT: NASA Administrator Visits Israel

1. (U) Summary. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited Israel
January 23-28 to present the keynote speech at the Fifth Ilan Ramon
International Space Conference, to commemorate the legacy of
Israel's first astronaut, and to meet with senior Israeli government
officials to discuss opportunities for enhanced civil space
cooperation. Administrator Bolden was joined by Assistant
Administrator for External Relations Michael O'Brien and several
NASA research scientists. Administrator Bolden met with President
Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister of Science
and Technology Daniel Hershkovits, Deputy Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Daniel Ayalon, U.S. Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham
and Israel Space Agency Director General Zvi Kaplan. During the
visit, Administrator Bolden visited with Rona Ramon, the widow of
the Israeli Astronaut who died during NASA's STS-107 Columbia
mission, and the Administrator visited astronaut Ilan Ramon's
gravesite. Administrator Bolden also met with Israel's leading
aerospace companies, gave a presentation to Israeli high school
students, and signed a joint statement making Israel an affiliate
partner of the NASA Lunar Science Institute. Discussions with
Israeli officials yielded agreement to explore further ways the two
countries could deepen cooperation on earth science research. End
Summary.

2. (U) Administrator Bolden met President Peres on January 24,
accompanied by Ambassador Cunningham and Science Minister
Hershkovitz. Peres talked of the tie forged between the two states
by Ilan Ramon's death in the shuttle Columbia accident, and asked
for continued partnership with the US in space research. Israel's
two greatest friends, Peres noted, are the United States and science
research. Finding ways to do things better, higher and cheaper
under resource constraints he said was an Israeli specialty, and he
hoped Israeli research would be tapped by the US. Israelis are
risk-takers, Peres said, and he asked that Israel be included in
NASA's future manned space program. Minister Hershkovits said
Israel's space program draws inspiration domestically from Ilan
Ramon and internationally from NASA's example of expertise. Bolden
lauded the accomplishments of Israel and contributions of Ilan
Ramon, while underscoring that NASA's future programs were being
decided over the coming weeks. The future budget is unclear, he
stressed, and the manned shuttle program was ending after coming
September's flight. Bolden noted that many technical problems have
to be solved before future long duration human space missions are
feasible and remarked how Israel is a world leader in technology
development. Administrator Bolden noted that it may be possible to
begin discussions on future flight opportunities for an Israeli
astronaut after NASA receives guidance on the future of its human
spaceflight.


3. (SBU) When meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, potential
future cooperation was discussed. The Prime Minister also
inquired about having another Israeli astronaut. NASA again
mentioned that the shuttle program is ending and the future of
manned spaceflight is currently being reviewed. The potential for
benefits to industry and science in both countries was recognized by
both parties, and it was agreed that further discussions should be
held by the respective space agencies to develop possible avenues
for closer cooperation. The Prime Minister gave the Head of the
Israeli Space Agency the action to work with NASA to develop a
future cooperation plan.

4. (U) Addressing the Fifth Ilan Ramon Conference, Administrator
Bolden gave a brief overview of NASA's work in space operations,
aeronautics, science, and exploration. The Administrator
highlighted NASA's cooperation, and how the agency is always
searching for opportunities for mutually beneficial areas of
collaboration on research and space exploration. Administrator
Bolden also noted the importance NASA assigns to education, as
stimulating student interest in science encourages future engineers
and researchers, ultimately advancing technology and innovation. He
lauded the role Rona Ramon has taken on in promoting science
education in Israel. Separately, Bolden also met with fifty high
school students at the American Center in Jerusalem, and gave an
educational presentation on the Space Shuttle missions the
Administrator commanded, as a former astronaut, and on NASA's
overall mission.

5. (U) Administrator Bolden visited several of Israel's leading
aerospace industries, including ElBit Optical systems, Israel
Aerospace Industries, and Raphael. At each stop, he received
briefings on Israel's latest technology, ranging from remote sensing
and observations to satellite building to Israel's independent
launch capacity.

6. (U) On January 27, Administrator Bolden signed a joint
declaration with ISA Director Zvi Kaplan making Israel an affiliate
of the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). The NLSI is a
partnership program to provide collaboration opportunities for
researchers, and will link the Israel Network for Lunar Science and
Exploration with similar institutions in the US, Canada, and Korea.
Ben Gurion University in Beersheva will be Isral's liaison with the
NLSI. The research programof the NLSI includes investigations of
the moon iself, of the lunar environment's effects on terresrial
life, and of science inquiry using the moonas an observation
platform.

7. (SBU) Comment nd Next Steps: The Prime Minister's charge to
exlore avenues for deeper cooperation will be defined in part by
coming pivotal decisions being made by the Administration and
Congress regarding NASA's future direction and funding. Bolden
cautioned Israeli interlocutors that NASA, as a civilian agency, is
not the chief market for Israeli aerospace technology that some
companies believe. Although NASA has contracted with private
companies as needed (e.g., SpaceX for lift capacity in the
post-shuttle era), future US-Israeli collaboration is likely to be
more research and science-based than commercially-based. NASA's
future cooperation with Israel is likely to be with the Israeli
Space Agency rather than directly with any Israeli companies. NASA
will continue to discuss the possibility of a framework agreement
with the Israeli Space Agency on cooperation and specific
cooperation on education, earth science, launch safety, and hyper
spectral data. NASA will look into the possibility of holding a
workshop in the Middle East to allow scientists and decision makers
from the Middle East to discuss potential change in future water
yield with a changing climate, and demonstrate how remote sensing
can be used to better manage and study water resources. NASA also
agreed to host a visit of the Israeli Minister of Science and
Technology and the Head of the Israeli Space Agency when they travel
to the U.S.

Cunningham

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