The second Israeli ever to head to space, Eytan Stibbe, arrived Saturday morning at the International Space Station together with his three fellow crew members for an eight-day mission, the first such private charter launched from American soil. He came prepared to celebrate Passover in a weightless environment.
Stibbe and his fellow crew members blasted off this past Friday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The encountered a few “hiccups” upon their arrival, with their spacecraft taking another orbit around the Earth before repeating docking procedures due to a technical snafu on their initial arrival, according to SpaceX.
Stibbe went fully equipped for his eight-day stay at the International Space Station, supplied by Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis with shmura matzah and grape juice with which to conduct his Pesach seder. He is also carrying the smallest bible in existence, a 0.5 square-millimeter silicon nanochip on which the sacred text’s 1.2 million letters are inscribed.
Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon! pic.twitter.com/Ru5dTDI72J
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 8, 2022
Stibbe, who is also a business owner, was joined by Larry Connor (managing partner of an Ohio real estate group), Mark Pathy (a Canadian investment firm CEO).
They are accompanied by Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former 20-year NASA astronaut who is current vice president of Houston-based Axiom Space (the company that commissioned the trip), serving as commander of the mission. Fifteen years ago, Lopez-Alegria spent seven months at the ISS.
The four privately-sponsored astronauts will live and work alongside the regular crew at the International Space Station, currently comprised of three Americans, one German and three Russians.
They will return home next Saturday in the SpaceX autonomous Dragon spacecraft.
Each of them paid a cool $55 million for the ride of a lifetime; but it’s really a working trip, albeit a private mission since the crew will be carrying out more than two dozen science experiments while aboard the International Space Station.
Stibbe will be conducting a total of some 35 experiments related to health, agriculture, optics and energy. The former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot also has with him an entire miniature space lab containing six experiments, sent by Israel’s largest hospital, Sheba Medical Center.
Connor will be collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic on projects related to aging. Pathy is working with the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Canadian Space Agency on health-related projects.
The crews spent between 750 and more than 1,000 hours preparing for the mission, training at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Housing and at SpaceX headquarters outside Los Angeles.
Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, a former Israeli fighter pilot, was at 48 the oldest member of the crew on the ill-fated Columbia mission when the spacecraft disintegrated during re-entry. Ramon and six other crew members were killed in the disaster.