Former IDF fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe is participating in a 10-day mission at the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Ax-1 crew, led by the Ramon Foundation in collaboration with the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology.
By Erin Viner
Stibbe was aboard the SpaceX “Dragon 2” spaceship launched from Cape Canaveral in the United States on April 8. The mission had been postponed twice due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and poor weather conditions.
Ilan Ramon was the first Israeli on a space mission. He was killed in 2003 along with six other crew members when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry to earth. Stibbe, who was a friend of the late payload specialist, carried a page with him into orbit from Ramon’s journal which survived the crash.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog spoke with the country’s astronaut live from the ISS last night.
“During these difficult times on the ground, this project, the exciting launch and experience that the whole House of Israel is watching, is a point of light in the sky,” said President Herzog in reference to the recent spate of terror attacks against the Jewish State, going on to say that, “These are moments that fill us with inspiration and excitement,” and “an opportunity to console the bereaved families, to express our pain and to say, life continues with full force. We do not surrender to terror or anything else—not when it strikes us on the streets of Tel Aviv or anywhere else in the country.”
“We look up at the sky and know that there is a representative of the State of Israel up there, a representative of humanity, and also a representative of our people, the Jewish People. And this representative is working at the International Space Station, reading Hebrew poetry, conducting dozens of fascinating experiments that we will yet discuss—this is a supremely important occasion,” he emphasized.
The President added: “Together with Michal and our family, we watched Eytan’s fascinating launch into space and it was a really special sight. Our prayer went up with him, our prayer for his safe journey. And as we got ready for our conversation with him, we recalled the verse, ‘The Heaven is Yours, the earth too; the world and all it holds—You established them’ (Psalms 89:12). It’s an experience that fills one with inspiration and faith.”
Eytan Stibbe surprised the President by showing him the copy of the Prayer for the State of Israel that Herzog presented him with prior to launch. The prayer was composed by the President’s grandfather and Israel’s first Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, inscribed in his own hand on a glass cube.
“This is the first time that we are at the International Space Station with the Israeli flag. This is very moving. The wonderful prayer, the Prayer for the State of Israel, composed by the President’s grandfather, is with me here,” said Stibbe.
“‘And grant peace on earth and eternal joy for all its inhabitants,”’ recited the Israeli astronaut from the prayer.