Getting hooked on space

A mechanical engineer’s quest to make the goal of interplanetary transportation a reality.

Gedi Minster (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gedi Minster
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘They don’t look for the most experienced individuals, they look for the most passionate individuals,” says mechanical engineer Gedi Minster, who certainly fits the bill. In July, he will be one of 13 Israelis participating in the Space Studies Program organized by the International Space University.
The program – which rotates through various campuses around the world and hosts lecturers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency – is being held in Israel for the first time, at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Some of the biggest names in the field of space exploration will take part, including famed American astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
The semester-long program, which comes on the heels of Jerusalem’s hosting the International Astronautical and Space Generation conferences at the Bloomfield Science Museum in 2015, emphasizes Israel’s prominence in the space industry, says Minster, who works at a company that makes rifle scopes in Har Hotzvim, the capital’s hi-tech center.
Minster attended the conferences and savored being around astronauts, NASA employees and representatives from the European Space Agency.
“I met space lawyers, people I didn’t even know existed,” he says.
What exactly does a space lawyer do?
“He specializes in space law,” he replies.
All kidding aside, Minster illustrates the legal questions facing space exploration: “The first astronauts who landed on the moon had to fill out customs forms when they came back,” he explains. “It seems silly, but these things are completely new. If we start a colony on Mars, what are the laws there? When [Israel] launches a satellite, it’s no longer above Israeli territory, and what are the laws there?”
Minster got hooked on space when he visited Washington’s Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as a child while living in the US. He majored in mechanical engineering at Ben-Gurion University; and in the Israel Air Force he was placed in the education squadron, where he taught math and physics to flight cadets.
His long-term goal is interplanetary transportation, from Earth to Mars, and he hopes to receive guidance from professors and lecturers at the program.
It’s not the fear of Earth’s becoming a polluted wasteland that’s driving Minster. “That’s [reason] No. 5 or something,” he says. More than anything, Minster wants to foster a culture of exploration and innovation and a “sense of adventure.”
He believes that in the same way that many of the people in the space field today grew up during the golden era of space travel during the Apollo missions, he hopes that our space revolution will inspire a new group of space enthusiasts for the future. He also hopes that his work will stop the loss of technology that occurred after the Apollo missions, rendering us unable to land a man on the moon today if we wanted to.
“The space race between the US and the Soviet Union ceased, and the pressure was decreased. That’s why I want to work on interplanetary transportation so that there will be an infrastructure in place to ensure we don’t go back,” he says.
He raves about the recent success of the private US space exploration company SpaceX.
“We are on the verge of a space revolution right now... [SpaceX has] had several unsuccessful flights… spectacular. But I actually characterize them as very successful because they learned so much from it. You have to crash and burn. The president of SpaceX actually got angry with her employees. ‘Why aren’t we crashing more?! We’re not pushing the envelope enough!’” he recounts.
He likens our situation vis-à-vis space exploration now to the first transatlantic flight or the first interstate highway in the US.
“It didn’t prove it could work, but look what came out of it – the whole commercial [aviation industry],” he says.
And long-term, Minster hopes that exploring space will help us all get along a bit better here on Earth.
“All the astronauts who have gone to space report that their perspective has shifted dramatically. It’s very hard to not be affected by looking at the Earth from the outside… not seeing any borders. Imagine more than just a handful of people seeing it,” he says.
Minster has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help with the costs of the program at the Technion. Funding is available for Israeli applicants, but the cost of the program is prohibitive for many.
Still, Minster isn’t deterred. He says, “In the next few decades, we have a unique opportunity to start a village or a city on another planet. Mars.”
If he gets his way, he will play a big part in making that dream a reality. 
To learn more about Gedi Minster’s crowdfunding campaign: fundraising/send-gedi-to-space.