‘A small step for Man, a big step for Israel’: Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe returns to Earth

April 26, 2022 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The second Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe and the crew of the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft safely splashed down off the coast of Florida on Monday night, after more than two weeks in space.

In this image from infrared video provided by SpaceX, recovery personnel approach the Dragon space capsule after splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast on Monday, April 25, 2022. Three rich businessmen returned from the International Space Station with their astronaut escort, wrapping up a pricey trip that marked NASA’s debut as a B&B host. (SpaceX via AP)

The Rakia Mission launched Stibbe to the International Space Station, the first Israeli to make the voyage. The international mission was initiated and led by Axiom Space, an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and orbital spaceflight services company headquartered in Houston, Texas.

During his  15 days in Space, Stibbe, one of the pioneers of the private space industry who paid for his voyage, conducted scientific and technological experiments, produced educational content for Israeli schoolchildren in Hebrew, and displayed and create Israeli art in space.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog welcomed Stibbe’s safe return to Earth, Tweeting “welcome back to Earth! A small step for man, a big step for the State of Israel and for the space mission of humanity.”

After landing, Stibbe said that “the underlying goal of Rakia is to recognize the prospective benefits of space exploration, through it we all aspired to draw on the curiosity associated with human space travel and unleash its creative potential. It aspires to raise awareness of the importance of preserving Earth’s limited resources and fostering commitment to international collaborations and the advancement of space research.”

“During the mission days dozens of scientific experiments which were developed by Israeli researchers and scientists were conducted onboard the space station, and students, educators, researchers, intellectuals, and the general public were stimulated by the exposure to it, and to the demonstration of the use of Israeli technology. On the educational level, Rakia enabled live transmission of educational content to hundreds of thousands of Israeli students in Hebrew, for the very first time from the ISS. In addition, Rakia presented a unique opportunity to see Israeli art projects being formed and exhibited in space. Rakia Mission and the people behind it prove that ‘no dream is beyond reach,’” said Stibbe.

Stibbe, 64, is an Israeli Air Force Colonel who served for 43 years and participated in dozens of operations. He is considered Israel’s second astronaut.

Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon launched into space in 2003 but was killed on his journey back to earth when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry into the atmosphere, the result of damage to the spacecraft.

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