This week marks 11 years since the Space Shuttle Columbia accident that killed Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. Menachem Kidrom, Director of the Israel Space Agency, spoke to Arutz Sheva and supported reports from last Tuesday that a second Israeli astronaut is set to be launched.
The Columbia disaster "was a hard blow to all of us," notes Kidron. "But astronauts continue flying to space. NASA today is developing a new spacecraft, and in the meantime launches astronauts with spacecraft from other countries."
In discussing the possibility of another Israeli astronaut, Kidron argues for the safety of the International Space Station (ISS), where "there are Chinese, Japanese, French and Russian" astronauts.
Kidron notes that "the space station orbits the earth like a satellite, there's food, spare parts, and it flies 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) above the planet. Being there is safe, because you can stay there a long time, and in the case of a malfunction you don't have to rush."
The director predicts that the risks of accidents in future space flights will be slimmer, saying "I think the lessons were learned; the Columbia disaster didn't happen while they were in space, but when they were coming back through the atmosphere."
"The great friction and heat and part of the insulation that fell caused the tragedy. I figure that they will do better checks in the future; the malfunctioning device was identified," remarked Kidron about the 2003 accident.
Kidron reveals that the Israel Space Agency hopes to send an Israeli to the moon.
"We always had a dream like that, it's not easy for a country with a limited budget that doesn't have space shuttles," said Kidron, adding "we have contacts with space agencies including the American one."
As noted, Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, died along with his 6 crewmates in a re-entry accident. He became the only non-American to be given the US Congressional Space Medal of Honor, which was awarded posthumously.
Previously, Ramon was one of the eight F-16 pilots who bombed the Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981, preventing dictator Saddam Hussein from obtaining nuclear weapons.
An airport in Timna, near Eilat, is set to be named after Ramon and his son Assaf, who was killed in an IAF training accident in 2009.