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Not enough in Ramon

Israel must commit to a national space program and mobilize the necessary resources

Space exploration is an essential element in the national strength of any country, and it is especially important to Israel both from a military point of view (for example, photography satellites), from a deterrence aspect (in its capabilities in the field of missiles and satellite launchers) and in promoting the practice of science and technology among the various layers of the population, especially among young people youth.

It could be expected that the launch of an Israeli astronaut would increase public support for space exploration and Israel's involvement in international space programs and would significantly increase the budgets allocated to space programs in Israel.

But this is not the case. At a special gathering held at Tel Aviv University on the day Major General Ilan Ramon was launched into space, Professor Haim Ashad, head of the Israeli space program, stated that the government ministry that invested the most resources in the Israeli space program was the Ministry of Defense.

The Ministry of Defense and the captains of the Israeli defense industries are indeed worthy of praise for their far-sighted vision, long-standing tenacity and capabilities on an international scale, the fruits of which the State of Israel has been reaping since it launched its first satellite, in 1988, on a launcher of its own. But where were the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Ministry of Education and the Prime Minister's Office?

The former head of NASA, Daniel Goldin, proposed to Israel during his last visit to the country to take an active part as a partner in the construction and operation of the International Space Station - the most advanced scientific-technological project in the world today. The "membership fees" required for this purpose were small in national terms, but, unfortunately, the government did not find the necessary budgetary resources.

The State of Israel today needs a declaration like that of President Kennedy - who, even before an American astronaut was launched into space, publicly committed to a national plan, the goal of which is to land a man on the moon in less than a decade. The Kennedy Declaration and the "Apollo" program, which followed it, catapulted the United States into a generation and made it a world leader in the field of science and technology.

Studies show that the investments in space exploration are among the most profitable, also from an economic point of view - is it possible to imagine the world economy without computers, communication satellites and advanced electronics, which are the result of space exploration? Space exploration also contributes directly to the development of medical technologies. In fact, every person uses space technologies - starting with his digital watch, going through kitchen aids and electronic devices, and ending with innovations in the field of agriculture and the environment.

A comprehensive national commitment to space exploration will contribute to the development of industry and society and will attract many children and teenagers, who will turn to study scientific and technological professions and in the future will staff academia and advanced industry.

The State of Israel must not miss this rare opportunity. It is appropriate to focus public attention not only on the security and economic situation, but also in the field of space sciences. The State of Israel must raise the necessary resources to pay the membership fees in the advanced countries, which maintain a presence in space, not only in order to step forward, but in order not to be left behind.

At the World Space Congress - in which I participated - the topic of promoting children and youth to engage in science and technology was emphasized. It was found that space programs succeed in igniting the imagination of young people and getting them to engage in these issues. Space agencies in the United States, Europe and Asia are currently investing exorbitant sums to promote education for youth - through the Internet, with the direct participation of youth in space exploration and encouraging the advanced industries to participate in the costs of the space programs.

As someone who has been involved in the education of teenagers in the field of space sciences since 1990, I see how high school students come, at the expense of their free time, and with great enthusiasm engage in building models of rockets and spacecraft, in astronomy and space engineering. Let's give them a goal, let's allow the human resources of the State of Israel to break through to new frontiers.

Give us an overall national commitment to space exploration.

The writer is a lecturer in space sciences

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