Israel is gearing up to select its next astronaut, and this time Science, Technology and Space Minister Danny Danon is hoping it’s a woman. Israel Hayom reported that the Likud minister has instructed the Israel Space Agency (ISA) to begin searching for the next Israeli astronaut for an upcoming space mission, including a preference for a female.
12 years ago, Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, perished tragically along with the rest of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia, which burned up upon reentry into the atmosphere. Although the next US space mission is several years off, Danon spoke to NASA representatives about Israel’s possible participation in future manned space flights. According to Danon, choosing the right participant is a long, arduous process which requires funding and coordination within Israel and with the US.
In 2011, NASA closed its space shuttle program, but is currently working on its Orion spacecraft, designed to carry four people into space. It will not be ready for several years. Meanwhile, NASA continues to send astronauts to the International Space Station via Russian spacecraft, and is advancing towards an ambitious goal of sending people to Mars.
The ISA and NASA are in talks about the possible inclusion of an Israeli astronaut on a future mission. The space minister explained his preference for a woman by emphasizing the need for a stronger female presence in the sciences. To this end, his ministry is also working on a plan to encourage girls to study sciences. In addition, Danon requested that the ministry double its budget for youth summer camps in cities on the periphery.
The news came just days before the annual Ramon Award ceremony. The award recognizes youth who excel both academically and as leaders in their communities.
Ramon’s widow, Rona, wrote about the winners, “They are selected from all over the country, for excelling in their studies and also for demonstrating caring and social responsibility. They recognize the problems where they live, and they work to change things.”
She added, “Ilan used to say that the youth are amazing, that they just need a clear path, a goal and leadership.”