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lunar cycle

Projects include satellite developed by Israeli and Emirati students to determine exact time of new moon.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Israel and the United Arab Emirates are planning a joint mission to the moon and other space exploration projects. Hebrew media reports described Tuesday’s cooperation agreement as “historic.”

The UAE will join SpaceIL’s efforts to send Beresheet 2 to the moon in 2024. Acting as a mothership, Beresheet 2 will deploy a satellite developed by Israeli and Emirati students to orbit the moon and determine the precise moment of the new moon. The Jewish and Muslim calendars are based on the lunar cycle.

But the most ambitious part of Beresheet 2’s mission are plans to drop a pair of ultra-light landers on the lunar surface. Two landers have never been deployed in one lunar mission. As if that isn’t complex enough, one will be dropped on the far side of the moon, which only China has managed to do.

Beresheet 2 is SpaceIL’s followup mission from the ill-fated Beresheet mission of 2019. The lander crashed into the lunar surface when an inertial measure unit gyroscope failed during the descent, coupled with a loss of communication with mission control. In the end, Beresheet slammed into the moon at a speed of 500 km/hour (310 mph).

Despite the crash, Beresheet reached lunar orbit, making Israel the seventh country to accomplish that feat. Costing $100 million, Beresheet was also the least expensive and first privately-funded satellite to reach the moon.

“It would be wonderful if we could develop a space program that would be a combination of Israel and the Arab world,” SpaceIL’s chairman Morris Kahn told the Global Investment Forum in Dubai on Wednesday, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The UAE notched an impressive space accomplishment in February when its Hope satellite reached orbit around Mars — an attainment pulled off by only five countries. Scientists tracking Hope’s data say the orbiter has delivered intriguing findings. The UAE plans to land a spacecraft on an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.

The news comes as Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed invited Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to visit the Gulf state.

Last year, Israel, Bahrain and the UAE normalized relations as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham accords. Later that year, Morocco and Sudan joined the accords as well, though Sudan has not yet followed through on establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Muslim of state of Comoros is reportedly in talks to join the Abraham accords while there is widespread speculation that the Gulf state of Oman may be next to sign on.