A few months ago my nephew sent me an interesting e-mail. The subject was Jewish Astronauts in Space. I of course know about the space program and the astronauts, but had never really considered how many might be Jewish. His e-mail included a list, pictures and write-ups for some of the astronauts.
Curious, I did what all good researchers do – I Googled the internet for Jewish astronauts. As expected the search returned a number of sites. The first one I checked was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Jewish_astronauts. There was a list of 14 astronauts of which 12 were from the United States, 1 each from Russia and Israel. The first Jewish astronaut was from Russia, Boris Volvnov. The first Jewish American was Judith Resnik and the first Israeli was Ilan Ramon. As I was doing my search, I came across the web site Astronaut 01 . As its name suggests, it has interesting facts about some of the astronauts. Some examples from the web site:
In 5755/1985, Jeffrey Hoffman (born 5704/1944 in Brooklyn) took four mezuzahs with him on the Discovery II shuttle mission. Copies of the mezuzah cases have joined the approximately one thousand mezuzah cases on display in the foyer of the “Great Synagogue” in Jerusalem;
Jeffrey Hoffman took a “space Torah” with him during a Columbia shuttle flight, in 5756/1996, and read verses from Bereishis in Hebrew as his spacecraft passed over Jerusalem;
In 5753/1993, astronaut David Wolf boarded a Columbia shuttle flight with fellow Jewish astronaut, Martin Fettman, taking along a shofar and some mezuzahs;
David Wolf lived in the Mir Space Station, from September 5758/1997 until January 5758/1998, he fasted on Yom Kippur although he was not quite certain when to do so as he was experiencing a new sunrise every 90 minutes.
Astronaut Gary Reisman had a cameo appearance on the series final of the TV show Battles at Galactica.
There is some controversy about the Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin. He is credited as the first man in space and some claim that he was Jewish. Unfortunately, he never told anyone if he was Jewish or not. So the mystery remains.
I found these facts fascinating and wonder how many stamps and covers have been prepared and issued honoring the Jewish astronauts. Also, has anyone made an exhibit of the available material. If yes, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.