US Astronaut Neil Armstrong 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Many Israeli teens don’t know the name Neil Armstrong – the first man to walk on
the moon – but they probably know the first sentence he said upon landing: “One
small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” says Prof. Yitzhak
Ben-Yisrael, chairman of the Israel Space Agency.
But, he added in an
interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, probably many came across the name
by reading the newspapers, watching TV and going on the Internet, which all
announced the death of the US astronaut on Saturday at the age of 82 from
complications following open-heart surgery.
Ben-Yisrael said that Israeli
children generally do not learn a lot about space exploration, even though it is
relevant to their lives. This is not only because of its discoveries about the
universe but also the technological developments, including miniaturization and
medical advances, that would not have been possible without the huge investment
in space, or at least would have taken much longer to achieve, he
Ben-Yisrael, a former MK and major-general, and until 10 years ago
head of MAFAT, the IDF’s internal research and development arm, did not meet
Armstrong when the former astronaut visited Israel as a private
“He was here to meet youth and to look into education
efforts. He was a great but modest hero. In 1969, when he flew in the Apollo 11
mission to the moon, he was very bold, as nobody knew if they would return
alive,” Ben-Yisrael said.
NASA feared then that there might be deadly
bacteria on the moon, so astronauts were kept isolated upon return until it was
sure they had not been infected, said Ben-Yisrael.
“There is no water on
the moon, so it wouldn’t be possible. But now NASA hopes there are
bacteria on Mars, where the unmanned space vehicle Curiosity
recently landed, as
bacteria mean there is water. That would be a great discovery.”