Uri Oron, center, director-general of the Israel Space Agency, is poised to sign the Artemis Accords in Israel, Jan. 26. Credit: Israel Space Agency

SEOUL, South Korea — Israel has joined the U.S.-led Artemis Accords for space exploration, hoping to use the agreement as a means of enhancing its space cooperation in the fields of research, science and innovation.

“I am proud to sign the Artemis Accords. Israel has officially joined this groundbreaking project, led by NASA, to reinstate manned flights to the moon in upcoming years,” Israel Space Agency’s Director-General Uri Oron said in a signing ceremony, Jan. 26, making the country the fifteenth signatory to the pact. “The Israeli Space Agency will continue to promote collaborations in research, science, innovation and economy within the framework of the Artemis Accords, between Israeli organizations and our international partners.”

The fourteen other signatories to the pact are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Poland, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The director-general signed the pact in Israel with his U.S. counterpart, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, observing it virtually, according to an Israeli news report. The ceremony was also attended by Israel’s Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, according to the report.

The science minister said Israel joined the Artemis Accords to make the moon “more than a stop, but a place on which to remain for a significant amount of time, in order to allow developments and research that cannot be done anywhere else. Israel can and should play a central role in this dream,” according to another report. “Signing this agreement now is another building block in our relationship with the United States, our greatest friend in the world. The essence of the Artemis program — to do something bold, and inspiring, land people — women and men — on the moon once again, after five decades.” 

The minister noted Israel is part of the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission, whose launch is scheduled for March. Two human torso-shaped dolls — named Zohar and Helga — will sit in the passenger seats during Orion spacecraft’s flight to the moon. Zohar will wear an Israeli spacesuit developed by Israeli company StemRad. Helga will go unprotected. After the spacecraft returns to Earth, radiation sensors will check the two dolls to assess the spacesuit’s effectiveness.

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...