Former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe is slated to become the nation’s second astronaut and will join a mission set to be launched by NASA from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at the end of 2021.
Stibbe, 66, is an IAF Colonel who served for 43 years and participated in dozens of operations. Sibbe founded Vital Capital Fund which focuses on impact investing in developing countries, and is a founder of the Center for African Studies at Ben-Gurion University, and serves on the boards of several education, arts and culture organizations, according to a report in Israel21C.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and the Ramon Foundation announced Monday that Stibbe will spend 200 hours at the International Space Station. Tal Ramon, son of the late Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, was present for the announcement. Stibbe was friends with Ilan Ramon.
A day of great national joy and pride. It's not every day that we announce an Israeli astronaut is going to space. Eytan Stibbe will fly with the blue and white flag his uniform, reminding us that the sky is no longer the limit!
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) November 16, 2020
Stibbe is expected to take off from Florida for the International Space Station in December 2021 and will be one of the pioneers of the private space industry in the world.
“The International Space Station is one of the greatest points of cooperation in the world, where astronauts from many countries live and work together,” Stibbe said. “This is the kind of fellowship that is so vital, particularly at this time as we deal with the coronavirus crisis.”
Stibbe will be at the station for 200 hours, during which he will conduct a series of unprecedented experiments with Israeli technologies and scientific developments that he will take with him into space, and is also expected to hold activities to make the space world accessible to Israeli children.
In the coming months, he will begin his training for space travel, with a concentrated training series in the United States, Germany and Russia in the three months prior to takeoff.
The Ramon Foundation, named after Ilan Ramon, will lead the Israeli mission in all its sectors – scientific and educational – in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Israeli Space Agency, which will lead the partnership of government ministries in the project.
The international mission was initiated and led by Axiom Space, an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and orbital spaceflight services company headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Upon arrival in space, the spacecraft will dock at the International Space Station (ISS) subject to NASA approval.
Along with Stibbe, two more private astronauts will take part in the mission. Michael Lopez-Alegria will serve as mission commander. He has more than three decades of experience in the worlds of aerospace and has flown into space four times and commanded the 14th mission to the International Space Station.
“This is a day of national joy, and tremendous pride,” Rivlin declared, saying that “not every day do we announce an Israeli astronaut going into space.”
“Soon, a space shuttle will take off from Earth and one of its rudders will be guided, once again, by ‘one of our own.’ An Israeli pilot with a blue-and-white flag embroidered on his shoulder, who will prove once again, as we have been proving here for 72 years, that even the sky is no limit,” he added.
Turning to Eitan, he said he will “be Israel’s representative in the human effort to understand the miraculous mechanism that enables life on this globe, and to crack the secrets of the universe.”
“Today, you become the messenger of us all. We wish you much success. Go out in peace and come back in peace and do not forget to wave to us goodbye from above. We are waiting for you at home,” he said.
Stibbe expressed hope that his journey will develop “new channels for cooperation, peace and faith in our ability to maintain our beautiful planet, for the benefit of future generations.”
Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon launched into space in 2003 but was killed on his journey back to earth when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry into the atmosphere, the result of damage to the spacecraft.
Four astronauts were sent Sunday night via SpaceX capsule named Resilience to the International Space Station this weekend after a trip of some 27.5 hours in orbit. The astronauts – three Americans and one astronaut from Japan — will spend six months on the space station.
Content by Aryeh Savir/TPS was used in this report.