Jews in Space: Why we need to be there

by Maskil on 28 Feb 2008

I apologise for the catchy, but somewhat misleading title…

Just to clarify, this has nothing to do with the Jews in Space sequence from Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I.

It also has little to do with the not insignificant number of Jewish and Israeli astronauts (or astronauts of Jewish descent), over the years, participating mainly in various NASA missions.

While Col. Ilan Ramon OBM was certainly the first (and thus far only) Israeli astronaut, Dr. Judith (Judy) Resnick OBM was the first Jewish astronaut with NASA, as well as being NASA’s second female astronaut and (obviously) the first female Jewish astronaut.

The honorary title of overall FJA (First Jewish Astronaut) belongs apparently to Soviet cosmonaut Boris Volynov (who flew two Soyuz missions in the late 60s).

Other names on this illustrious list include

  • Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, who flew on the Space Shuttles Discovery and Columbia five times between 1985 and 1996.
  • Dr. David Wolf, who has flown three shuttle flights, spent four months aboard the space station Mir.
  • Dr. Scott Horowitz has been in space four times between 1996-2001 on shuttles Columbia, Discovery and Atlantis. He served as pilot and was crew commander on his final mission.
  • Dr. Garrett Reisman
  • Dr. Gregory Chamitoff

To the purpose of this posting.

At the time of the Ofeq-6 disaster in 2004, I questioned in my mind whether the responsible authorities in Israel understood the importance of this delivery capability. These questions were not put to rest by Israel’s recent decision to launch TecSAR in association with the Government of India. While I’m all in favour of this kind of international cooperation, once again I hoped that the need for Israel to have a solid delivery capability or mechanism was not being neglected.

As a compulsive listmaker, over the last year or so I’ve been putting together my concerned layman’s wishlist of what I’d like to see in an Israeli space program in the broadest sense. Once I’m in a position to carry out more research (yup, we’re talking Google here), I hope to be able to make check marks next to many of these items. If I’ve left off any significant items, please drop me a line or use the Comments function.

The operating assumptions

  • Recognise the importance of a comprehensive space program (civilian and military) for the safety, security and future of Israel.
  • In the same way (and for much the same reasons) that we need to be part (albeit ambiguously) of the nuclear club, we need to be in this latter day space race
  • While international cooperation in the field of space research is important, Israel must continue to develop its own satellite delivery capability, and must not be reliant on other countries to launch its satellites.
  • Israel must be able to match or better Iran’s capability to deliver a warhead anywhere in the Middle East, accurately and without reliance on manned aircraft.
  • It must develop the ability to temporarily blind, disable or even destroy the satellite of a hostile nation in the sky over Israel (or otherwise conceal activities on the ground, from both friend and foe).
  • It must have the ability to protect its own space assets against attack and/or have redundant or backup systems for critical functions.
  • Space is to be regarded as the top layer in a strategic umbrella over Israel.
  • This umbrella should provide a permanent, redundant Command, Control, Computers and Communications grid over Israel and that part of the Middle East, using a combination of satellites in various orbits, UAVs and AWACS.
  • Satellites to make use of overlapping and redundant orbits to achieve the required level of availability and reliability
  • Mapping/identification of all satellites in our quadrant. Is it friend, foe or neutral, and what are its capabilities?
  • Eventually, a weapons platform in its own right (a la Star Wars/SDI).

What the grid should eventually provide:

  • A multi-dimensional picture of the whole of this sector of the ME, for both civilian and military applications, 24/7/366.
  • A transport layer for all forms of data, video and voice communications, civilian and military.
  • Secure/encrypted communications for government, military and emergency services.
  • Redundancy for Israel’s Internet needs.
  • GPS navigation for both civilian and military applications.
  • Information regarding land use, urban and regional planning, vegetation and water usage.
  • Assistance in border patrol and maritime security operations (terrorists, illegal immigrants/people smuggling, goods).
  • Maritime communications, navigation and coast guard activities.
  • Missile guidance and other military targeting systems.
  • Support for Israel’s anti-ballistic missile and other missile defence needs, including defence from threats over the horizon.
  • Signals intelligence (eavesdropping) and other military intelligence needs.
  • Reconnaissance and surveillance.
  • Electronic counter-measures?

With Israel now having the Israeli Space Agency (civilian) and with the Israeli Air Force now having been transformed into the Israel Air and Space Force (IASF) (at least in name), I’m hoping we can look forward to both vision and execution on Israel’s Final Frontier. No doubt bodies such as the Israeli Space Society and the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies will also play a role in this regard.

Here’s to the launch of the next generation of Ofeq satellite from within Israel’s borders!


YouTube – Jews in Space

Israeli MoD May Seek Emergency Funds to Replace Ofeq-6

IAI’s TecSAR Satellite Transmits First High-Quality Photos

Israeli Space Agency – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Israel Puts Air Force in Charge of Space Activities – Hotly Debated Decision Renames the Service the Israel Air and Space Force

The Fisher Institute For Air And Space Strategic Studies

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