Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Jewish Astronauts


  Seven Jews have participated in American space exploration as astronauts. Two women and five men have flown into space. Of these, two were killed in space accidents.

   Jay Apt qualified as an astronaut in 1986 and flew on the space shuttle Atlantis in 1991 and on the Endeavour in 1992 and 1994. In 1996 Apt flew again on the Atlantis. This means that Jay Apt flew 847 hours in space and that he walked in space for over 10 hours.

   Jay Apt has now retired from NASA  and has become the director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

   Apt is a native of Springfield, Mass. Apt earned a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Harvard.

   Ellen Baker was selected as an astronaut in 1984. She is a graduate of the Cornell University  medical school and  the University of Texas where she earned a degree in public health.  Her undergraduate degree in geology is from the University at Buffalo. She has participated in three space flights, logging over 686 hours in space. She was a mission specialist in 1989, 1992  and 1995.  She is now chief of the medical branch of the Astronaut Office of Education.

   Ilan Ramon died on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed during entry 16 minutes before it would have landed.

   Ramon was born in Tel Aviv in 1954. He graduated from the University of Tel Aviv in computer engineering and then joined the Israeli Air Force. He flew the F-16 for more than 10,000 hours and 3,000 hours on other planes. He  participated in the Yom Kippur War and other Israeli defense actions . His loss was deeply felt by Israel as he was regarded a major Israeli hero and fighter for Israel’s survival.

 Scott J. Horowitz is a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He became an astronaut in 1992 and then logged 1,138 hours in space.  Among many honors, Horowitz holds the Distinguished Flying Cross.

 Scott Horowitz earned a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech University. Earlier he graduated in engineering from California State University at Northridge.

Scott Horowitz was crew commander of  the space shuttle in 2001. He flew four missions in 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2001.  Horowitz has been a professor of mechanical engineering at California State University since 1991.

 On January 28, 1986 the space craft Challenger exploded after launch and killed Judith Resnik as well as the other seven crew members. Much has been made of the death of a woman teacher aboard that fatal fight that day. Overlooked has been Judith Resnik, who was not only a first class scientist but also a classical pianist. She held a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland and held a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

  She performed biological research experiments for the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

 Jeffrey Hoffman became an astronaut in 1979. He continued in that capacity until he became NASA European representative in 1997. Today he is professor of aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He flew three space missions on the Discovery, the Columbia and the shuttle Atlantis. His fourth flight came in 1993 when he was a member of the crew of the shuttle Endeavour. He participated in the restoration of the Hubble Space Telescope, so that he became the first astronaut to log 1,000 hours on the space shuttle.  All of his space flights led to spending 21.5 million miles in space during 1,211 hours.

  There is a good deal more to be said about these astronauts. All have in common that they were/ are Jewish, have a great deal of education and a great deal of courage.  

  They have been at the “cutting edge” of science and the forefront of exploration in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Fraud (2007).

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