After having distinguished himself as an IDF fighter pilot, Eytan Stibbe trained to be an astronaut, and is now preparing to take off tomorrow on the first-ever private mission to the international space station. Yonatan Meroz speaks with him about the experience:
Stibbe and three other astronauts will take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which will be launched via the company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. On the menu are dozens of scientific experiments that will be carried out on behalf of a large number of organizations. (Stibbe is scheduled to carry out 35). The launch date is currently set for April 6, and Axiom Space, the American company behind the mission, together with the Israel Space Agency, the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ramon Foundation, will be crossing their fingers that there won’t be any further delays.
The long shadow of the Columbia shuttle disaster, in which Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon along with six other crew members lost their lives, has hung over the mission throughout. Even the nineteen years that have passed since cannot dispel it.
“Ahead of the launch, I trained in the places that I visited with Ilan,” said Stibbe, who was a friend of Ramon’s and served alongside him for many years. “He took me around and showed me the shuttle and the simulators. It’s a very sentimental issue for me. I will take with me into space some of the pages of Ilan’s diary that survived the disaster, and a painting by his daughter Noa. I hope that the next two weeks change the sentiment in Israel that connects manned space flight and tragedy.”