Israel said to eye sending second astronaut spaceward

Officials hold talks with US, Russia, EU and China to launch Israeli to space station, 11 years after Ilan Ramon was killed in Columbia disaster

The NASA space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in 2011. (photo credit: NASA)
The NASA space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in 2011. (photo credit: NASA)

Officials from the Israel Space Agency and the Science, Technology and Space Ministry are in negotiations with a number of countries with space programs over the possibility of sending an Israeli astronaut on a mission to the International Space Station.

Israeli officials held a series of meetings with representatives of various space agencies at an international conference in China several months ago, Walla News reported.

Israel’s first astronaut, former fighter pilot Ilan Ramon, was killed on February 1, 2003, when the NASA space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the earth’s atmosphere after a 16-day mission.

Despite progress in the talks, several obstacles remain, which indicate that it will be years before an Israeli can be sent into space, the Walla report noted. For one, the US, Russia, Europe and China have a lock on all the seats available on the scheduled flights to the ISS for the next two years.

It would also take many years of advanced training to prepare an Israeli astronaut for a mission, and such training would come at significant expense, the report noted.

Ilan Ramon (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ilan Ramon (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Next week, the ISA is due to hold a “Space Week,” with space-related events to take place throughout the country, including a memorial for Ramon and lectures from Italian and US astronauts. The events run from January 26 to February 1.

Israel is also due to host — in Jerusalem — the week-long 2015 International Astronautical Federation conference, a major international showcase of space science and technology.

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