These words were said at the Aviation and Space Association conference on Thursday, 16/1 at Tel Aviv University, during which the launch was broadcast live on a giant screen * The author is one of the leaders of the Israel SEDS chapter
By: Daniel Rosenberg
We gathered here to witness a historic moment - the moment when the first Israeli will cross the borders of the earth and reach space. As people involved in and interested in space exploration, this moment is exciting in two respects - both as Israelis who are proud of Ilan for his tremendous achievement and as human beings who are in awe of the technological marvel called the space shuttle.
The State of Israel is not the first to send its people into space and certainly not the last, but unlike most countries that have sent a man into space, this is not an empty gesture - Israel is one of the leading countries in the field of space in the world, with an independent ability to build and launch satellites. This ability places Israel in the first row both in the field of space and at the forefront of technology and high-tech.
When the space shuttle enters its orbit, and the trunk doors open, the team of astronauts will begin their duties - including Ilan. The experiment in which Ilan will engage is in the field that is heard from heaven - the dust. Dust is not an exciting thing, and certainly not something that the average person would think would justify sending a person into space. But if we take that grain of dust we will find that it directly affects our lives and when we investigate it we will discover things that will improve the quality of life for all of us. This is the nature of science - it is unpredictable, unknown and mysterious but it is a cornerstone of our lives.
The contribution of space exploration to humanity is tremendous, but unfortunately many are the cases where we stop treating a certain thing as a technological miracle, but accept it as a matter of course. A good example of this is the launch that we will see soon, when we will all refer to the wonder of the space shuttle taking off but will ignore the fact that only 40 short years ago people did not dream that we could see at one end of the earth what is happening at the other end in real time. This is possible thanks to the communication satellites that hover permanently above the earth and transmit information from place to place without limitations. The exploration of space and its utilization are a central factor in human culture.
Space is the door to the future, because one day humanity will reach the stars. When that day comes, I hope that the State of Israel will be one of the pioneer countries in this effort and will be recognized as one of the pioneers. Investing in space is an investment in our future, therefore just as the state builds roads and railroads throughout Israel to enable convenient and fast movement from place to place, so it must invest in space exploration in order to build infrastructure on the way to the stars.
A little over a year ago, the Director General of NASA at the time - Mr. Dan Goldin - was in Israel, and reached an agreement with the State of Israel, according to which we will invest NIS 3 million in space research in the next 50 years and in return we will have close cooperation with NASA on the International Space Station, Something that would have promoted space exploration in Israel and the local industries to a considerable extent.
Due to the difficult situation in which Israel has been in recent times, this budget has been cut. This step was taken out of short-sighted considerations for savings in the coming year, savings that in the long run will lead to a huge waste. Following the cuts, the Israel Space Agency's budget became a ghost budget, and instead of a thriving space program that contributes back to the country and positions Israel as a top high-tech country, we became a country that invests less in space research than countries such as Nigeria.
I have every hope that the current launch will not be a one-time event but will result in the flourishing of Israeli space research and the injection of the much needed budgets so that Israel can honestly call itself a high-tech country.
We should not forget - unlike science fiction, which has a loose connection to reality, space is our future and without it we would have no existence.