The ninth anniversary – on February 1 – of the death of Col. Ilan Ramon
is being marked with a whole week of events, including a US astronaut visiting
gifted high school pupils and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) meetings to plan the
country’s future moves.
Ramon, Israel’s first and only astronaut, was
killed in the Columbia space shuttle crash along with six other crew
Retired National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Astronaut William S. McArthur, Jr., was clearly excited to meet 500 teens
from around the country on Tuesday who came to the Academy of Science and Arts
high school in the Malha quarter of Jerusalem. Listening to their questions
about his career and space experiences, the West Point graduate encouraged them
to strive for the best and think of a scientific or space career. He also
expressed his hope for further Israeli cooperation with NASA.
veteran of three NASA space shuttle missions and one expedition to the
International Space Station via the Russian Soyuz capsule, McArthur has received
numerous awards and medals for his breakthrough work in the field and racked up
tens of millions of kilometers in space flights. The teens from 20 schools and
members of the Ilan Ramon Space Club, learned about how he slept, shaved and
ate; which health problems result from the lack of gravity and what caused him
the most excitement.
Every year, NASA sends a delegation to Israel to
help mark the tragic loss Ramon, and also keeps in regular touch with his widow,
Rona, who has since lost a son, Asaf, in the crash of an Israel Air Force
Yitzhak Klug, the grandfather of one of the pupils present, wowed
the group when he revealed that he was a US engineer involved in developing
parts of the the Apollo 11 spacecraft, which in 1969 landed the first men on the
moon. Klug subsequently made aliya in 1971 and worked for years at Israel
The Israel Space Agency, meanwhile, announced that
it aims to expand its relative advantage to become one of the world’s five
leaders in the civilian space field. This, the agency said, will be carried out
by developing new microsatellites and multi-spectral cameras, expanding space
infrastructure, maximizing international cooperation in space projects and
encouraging young Israelis to get interested in space research. This and many
other projects, it continued, will bring Israel’s standing in civilian, economic
and scientific spheres of space to the level of its expertise in space-related
Israel has produced 13 satellites, and nine of them are
currently revolving around the earth. Of these, there are six observational and
three communications satellites. These were launched and are functioning at a
100 percent success rate, the agency said. ISA’s work has huge economic
implications, as the world space market totals $250 billion.
the ISA – which is a part of the Science and Technology Ministry, has appointed
a new director, Menahem Kidron, who has been approved by the cabinet. Kidron,
who was congratulated by Minister Prof.
Daniel Herschkowitz, previously
worked at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. as a senior deputy
director-general involved in space systems. He is replacing Dr. Zvi Kaplan, who
is retiring after seven years in the post.
The new ISA director said that
the civilian space program is of great national importance and will promote
industry, academia and society. Born in Germany, Kidron has a bachelor’s degree
in chemical engineering from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He
worked for Rafael (Arms Development Authority) starting in 1972 and studied at
Stanford University and New York University to develop lightweight structures
and techniques for using coal to produce energy. Since 2009, at Rafael’s space
systems administration, he ran business projects worth NIS 500 million a
The Finance and Science and Technology ministries have signed an
agreement to invest an additional NIS 165 million in civilian space projects
over the next two years.
It is expected to have a significant impact on
exports. They are considering an additional expansion of their investment in
space in 2013, including cooperative projects with other countries.
feature article on the encounter between McArthur and the high school pupils
will appear on The Jerusalem Post’s Science & Health Page on Sunday,