After about 18 months of preparation and numerous delays, Israel’s second astronaut, Eytan Stibbe, is scheduled to take off for a week-long stay at the International Space Station.
The 64-year-old Stibbe was a close friend of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia in February 2003. Receiving his pilot wings in 1978, Stibbe flew under Ramon’s command in the 117 F-16 squadron.
Stibbe’s Rakia Mission is intended to advance education and the arts in Israel. Rakia is part of Axiom Space Ax-1, the world’s first private mission to the ISS.
Stibbe is donating his time and all costs of the journey, including expenses related to the 44 experiments he’s taking along from Israeli scientists, entrepreneurs and students.
These experiments are designed to test the effects of outer space on a wide variety of conditions ranging from medical to agricultural.
Among them are a special helmet to record brain changes during space travel, and special chickpea seeds testing hydroponic techniques for plant growth in zero gravity.
Stibbe will also take along the artworks “Big Dream” and “Impossible Object” and symbolic items such as a nano Bible engineered at the Technion and a 1,900-year-old Jewish coin recently unearthed in the Judean Desert.
Follow Stibbe’s journey here.
Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a major daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.