American astronaut Scott Kelly and Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis at the opening of Space Week.
(photo credit: GILAD KAVALERCHIK)
Scott Kelly, the NASA astronaut who holds the record for most time spent in space for an American is visiting Israel for Space Week. "I am happy to share my experiences with the Israeli people" stated Kelly who is in Israel for the first time.
Minister of Science and Technology Ophir Akunis who joined Kelly for the opening event of Space week, also reference the late Israeli astronaut, his wife and son stating, "This year we mark Space Week in honor of the tragic death of Rona Ramon. She did much to promote educational activities." Ramon, would passed away from cancer in December approved the creation of the Ilan and Assaf Ramon Scholarship. The fund is named in memory of her husband Ilan, Israel's first astronaut, who died in the 2003 Columbia space-shuttle crash and her son Assaf, a pilot who was killed in a crash in 2009.
"From space we do not see the earth with political borders," said Kelly, who also serves as ambassador to the United Nations Space Agency. He discussed the possibility of a flight to Mars, commenting, "I've been in space for 340 days and going to Mars is supposed to take only 200 days, so I don't think it's a problem. There are challenges of radiation, but the problem of reaching Mars is not technical."
Regrading private initiatives for flights to Mars proposed by South Africa-born technology entrepreneur and investor Elon Musk, Kelly said, "we created partnerships to to send teams to Mars. Elon Musk is a man of vision. A|t first I said to myself that the man is crazy, because NASA tested the possibility of going to Mars years ago and came to the conclusion that it would not work. But I've been proved wrong. He's a talented person and I think he might be considered the Thomas Edison of our time."
Part of the focus of Space Week will be the SpaceIL program which has spent years developing a spacecraft to send to the moon which is set to launch in mid-April. Akunis called it "one of the most important events in the history of the country. I am proud that the Israeli innovation industry is part of this."
During his stay in Israel, Kelly will visit the Dead Sea, meet with students in Netanya, and attend the 14th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference in Tel Aviv.
Space Week will be taking place from January 27 through January 31 and feature various space-themed learning activities
throughout the country.